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The art of a good manager: Is your team smarter than you?

The art of a good manager: Is your team smarter than you?

Du’s John Lincoln shares his thoughts on the transformational process of being a good manager and tells you if you are one by asking three essential questions.

March 25, 2012 5:02 by

As people are the biggest asset of any business, it would behoove upon any small business owner to take his her responsibility as a “manager of people” very seriously.

I have often been asked by my colleagues, friends and occasional interviewers to describe my “management style”.

Before I attempt to answer that I should state that it has been an evolutionary and transformational process for me. I had observed and learnt to imitate from some great managers on how best to get the best from their teams, as well as some not so great managers on how not to manage.

There were early periods in my career when only results mattered and times when I subscribed to the “means justified the end” management approach. There were also times in my career where I have often depicted the full frailties and bane of humankind to the teams that I managed. Anger, impatience, suspicion, insecurity, threats and other sins of mere mortals were some of the characteristics that I have displayed often. Of course, I still get angry and impatient, though infrequently. I still am a mere mortal, after all.

So what is the official definition of management?
Management (from Old French ménagement “the art of conducting, directing”, from Latin manu agere “to lead by the hand”) characterises the process of leading and directing all or part of an organisation, often a business, through the deployment and manipulation of resources (human, financial, material, intellectual or intangible).

This definition was definitely written a very long time ago.

In this fast moving world of ours, the suggestion of leading someone by the hand especially a team of bright, educated and obviously intelligent folks will not get you anywhere. In fact I would suggest that this notion of leading by hand will be counterproductive to attaining the desired goals and results

Today, my grand assumption is that everyone in my team is smarter than me. (Occasionally, though, I have been proven wrong.) However, I will also assume that I have the requisite knowledge and experience until proven otherwise. So I set myself as a coach and facilitator rather than a manager for my team. I see it as my responsibility to enable my team’s success.

So what is my approach?

I believe that we have to be very honest to our teams. We should openly praise and recognise the team or individuals for their achievements. I believe a manager should openly credit his or her team for recognition of any success that the team has achieved. I believe now that a manager should never take credit for the work done by their team. He or she should give full praise and credit to the team. Of course the manager will have to take the blame when things go wrong. Yes, that’s the irony of life.

At the same time, a good coach and facilitator should be honest even when things are not going well or when improvement is required of someone. They should provide open and frank feedback, guidance and mentoring. They should also be ready to raise the stakes to the extent of openly chiding the employee so as to send a message to everyone that a certain behavior is and will not be acceptable. Therefore, being honest is a key element that I try to practice every day. Flattery and false praises will be seen through by smart people!

If you work with an international team, you most likely work with staff who come from very different cultural, religious and social backgrounds, beliefs and values. Recognising that in a team there might be different functional specialties, different education, interests and backgrounds is crucial to your success as a manager.

Trying to understand and respect the unique characteristics of each of your team member is important so that you can appreciate the unique and occasional or frequent different perspectives that someone has.

Before we are employees or managers or workers, we are first and foremost human beings. Therefore it is important to connect with people on a personal basis. Showing genuine interest and concern in the team members’ family, education, hobbies and other personal interests will be appreciated by any one. Showing understanding and genuine concern when something is personally affecting the employee will never be forgotten by any one. Share the joys and miseries of everyday living with your team folks. They will appreciate this very much.

Finally, results do matter. We are all employees in a for-profit corporation to generate results that will generate profits. We have a divine obligation to the company and its shareholders to deliver results. As a manager you will be judged by your management on your results. It is your team’s efforts that generate the results that you are measured and paid on. An acute awareness of this helps. A lack of understanding of this critical element will be fatal to your career!

So do you pass the test of goodness, truthfulness and usefulness? (This is a quote borrowed from a CEO that I admire a lot).
As a manager, you will have to pass all the three elements of this test.

Goodness – Do you have empathy for your team? Do you connect to people? In other words, are you human? Do you appreciate and recognize the different points of reference that each of us have?

Truthfulness – Are you truthful to your team? Are you honest to yourself?

Usefulness – We are all corporate warriors for a purpose. We have to be useful and deliver results.

You really need to pass all the 3 tests to be a good coach and facilitator. Also, know and remember that you cannot add value for your shareholders without adding value to your employees first.

John Lincoln is the Vice President of Enterprise Marketing at Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (Du). You can contact him at [email protected] or tweet him via @lincolnjc.

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1 Comment

  1. Arti on April 16, 2012 5:31 pm

    Nice article. I like the concept of Goodness, Truthfulness and Usefulness. Indeed being a good leader requires all 3 of them.

    I would take the liberty to add two more things which have helped me in life –
    1. TRUST – When you trust your team, you get amazing results. They would turn things upside down to deliver and not let you down.
    2. DEVELOPING TEAM MEMBERS – Putting sincere effort to develop team members goes a long way in motivating them. When they see you taking up their case and fighting to get resources for their development, they connect with you better and again, would do anything to deliver.



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