Leadership & Management

The making of a good manager

The making of a good manager

Ancient and modern defi nitions of a manager – and how you can become a great one

People are by far and away from the single biggest asset of any business, and every business owner/manager will want to take their responsibility as a ‘manager of people’ very seriously indeed. Management style is an evolutionary and transformational process, and there are lessons that can be learned that will help ensure you always get the very best from your team. (Personally, there were some early periods in my career where when only results mattered and that the ‘means justified the end’. There were also times where the full frailties of humankind were depicted to the teams that I managed. Anger, impatience, suspicion, insecurity,
threats and other mortal sins were among some of the characteristics displayed. I still get angry and impatient, though much less frequently!)

Formally, ‘management’ (from Old French ménagement ‘the art of conducting, directing’, from Latin ‘manuagere’ to lead by the hand’) characterises the process of leading and directing all or any part of an organization, often a business, through the deployment and manipulation of human, financial, material, intellectual or intangible resources. This definition was definitely written a very long time ago. In this fast-moving world of ours, even a hint of trying to ‘lead someone by the hand’ especially a bright, educated and intelligent graduate will not get you anywhere fast. It fact, this notion of leading by hand could actually be counterproductive to attaining the desired goals and results. Indeed, one assumption I now make, is that everyone in the team is smarter than me! That said, another assumption is that as a manager I must have the
requisite knowledge and experience until proven otherwise. So I set myself up 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 a good approach to management?

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We have to be honest with our teams. We should openly praise and recognize the team or individuals for their achievements. A manager should openly credit his or her team for recognition of any success that the team has achieved. A manager should never take credit for the work done by their team but should give full praise and credit to the team. (Of course, the manager will have to take the blame when things go wrong – that’s the irony of management!). 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 certain behavior is and will not be tolerated. Honesty needs to be practised every day. Flattery and false praises will be seen through by smart people.

Understanding and respecting different points of reference
All men and women are equal, but we are not created equal. In any international team, it is obvious
that we all come from very different cultural, religious and social backgrounds, with different beliefs and values. Recognizing that in a team there might be different functional specialities, different education, interests and backgrounds, is crucial to success as a manager. Trying to understand and respect the unique characteristics of each team member is important if the different perspectives they bring is to be fully
appreciated and valued.

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 team members’ family, education, hobbies and other personal interests will be appreciated by everyone. Showing understanding and genuine concern when something is personally affecting an employee will never be forgotten by them. Share the joys and miseries of everyday living with your team. You will be appreciated for it.

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


I set myself up as a coach and facilitator, rather than a manager, for my team. I see it as my responsibility to enable my team’s success.”

john lincoln, author
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The test of goodness, truthfulness and usefulness

So do you pass the test of goodness, truthfulness and usefulness? (This is a quote borrowed from a CEO that I admire a lot, and said in a different context in a recent meeting). To be a good manager, you will have to pass all the three elements of this test.

  1. 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 has?
  2. Truthfulness – Are you truthful to your team? Are you honest to yourself?
  3. Usefulness – We are all corporate warriors for a purpose – to be useful and deliver results.

So are you truly useful? Pass all three tests and you can consider yourself to be a good coach and facilitator; you cannot add value for your shareholders without adding value to your employees first.


JohnLincoln.oneThe business growth hacker


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