Part II: Two Essential Skills of a Good Manager

Most managers know they have hard jobs and that they could do better. They just don’t know how. When dealing with unmotivated or unskilled employees it seems like the problem is out of the manager’s hands; they find themselves wishing there were more good people out there to hire.  The idea of hiring good people, is for the most part, a myth. Barring the completely incompetent and lazy workers, most people could do their jobs well with the right guidance, motivation and support. In that case, the manager has a lot more power than most of us realize.

If you are naturally good at managing people, consider yourself gifted, because it’s a rare talent. Most managers have to work at it. The good news is that it’s possible to be a good, even a great manager, if you are clear on the skills that management requires.

First, throw out the old idea of managing with an iron fist. The top-down, “do it because I said so” approach may have worked a generation ago, but not now. The world has changed, and management must follow. This doesn’t mean that you have to be touch-feely, or consult your staff on every decision you make. In today’s world, good managers use a combination of skills that earn them respect, and preserve the respect of workers.

The same keys and themes on good management come up in most of the top-selling books on the market today. Think about the following two points for good managers, and ask yourself to what extent you use them. Then think about how to get better at each one, because there is no such thing as a perfect manager.

  1. Adjust the job, not the person. One of the biggest mistakes managers make is to hire people for a position that is non-adjustable. People end up spending most of their time doing tasks they’re not good at and don’t like. Consequently, they don’t perform well, and they’re attitude follows in suit. Good managers find out what their subordinates’ skills and likes are, and adjust. They make the jobs fit the people – not the other way around.Renowned author and speaker on management, Marcus Buckingham calls this concept “playing chess instead of checkers.” Managers who play checkers put people in positions without thinking and expect them to do the job in the way that they want. Mangers who play chess, are strategic. They may change a job, or a position to fit the individual.”

    Great managers know they don’t have 10 salespeople working for them. They know they have 10 individuals working for them…” says Buckingham. “A great manager is brilliant at spotting the unique differences that separate each person and then capitalizing on them.”

  2. Use multiple styles of management. If you have an office with 20 workers, chances are each one of them would have a list of different traits they want from a manager. Good managers realize they can’t please everyone, but they are willing to use a variety of styles to relate to their employees. That means being a strategist one day, and a mentor the next. It can also mean being insistent on some practices, and flexible or democratic on others.

The best thing a manager can do is to read at least four or five books on different philosophies of management and practice. Try anything written by Marcus Buckingham, Stephen Robbins, or Barry Posner. They are all worth reading and provide great insights into ways in which you can incorporate these two lessons into your management practices. Unless you are a natural, reading and practicing good management is truly a necessity for doing the job well.