To become an outstanding manager is not as hard as you might expect because, to be frank, the competition is not up to much!
Many people are given managerial roles because of their technical competence in the role they will be managing. So excellent nurses become managers of nurses. High performing sales people become sales managers. Good bar staff become bar managers. Sometimes such a strategy works, but more often it does not, because managing people doing a job is a very different proposition from doing the job.
So, if it is not very hard to be an outstanding manager, what does it take?
Managers have to have the courage to say things that they might find difficult or unfamiliar. To praise when it is deserved and to challenge when it is required. Managers have to say and do things that can feel awkward. They need to be brave enough to start some difficult conversations and skilful enough to end them well too!
Managers need to have the confidence to get the job done. They have to believe that they are equipped to deal with the situations that they face, both psychologically and technically. They have to believe in themselves as a manager, and be confident in their position.
Although managers have to deal effectively with a bewildering range of situations, I believe that there is a relatively small set of core skills or tools that need to be learned to deal with most of them. These include:
- Building working relationships
- Giving and getting feedback that works
- Coaching and developing people
- Delegating, and
- Managing priorities
These are the managerial ‘Big 5’. If you can learn to do these 5 things well, and use them frequently and consistently with everyone that you manage, then you will be an outstanding manager. Many books have been written on each of these ‘Big 5’ and you can spend a lifetime learning about each of them. However for each of them competence can be acquired quite quickly by learning a few basics and then practicing them consistently. Once managers have acquired a basic proficiency in the ‘Big 5’ then in my experience they soon acquire the confidence and courage that they need.
Outstanding managers have a way of ensuring that they get better at their job. They manage their own learning and are continually developing their management practice. While it may take just a few months to become an outstanding manager it can take a professional life time to become the best manager that you can be!
Managing in The Matrix
There was perhaps a time when the vast majority of managers would just have to worry about managing their team, their ‘direct reports’. For most of us this is no longer true with lots of time being spent managing:
- horizontally with peers inside and outside the organisation
- managing up, frequently in matrix organisations, to more than one boss on more than one project
- customers, suppliers, regulators/inspectors and others touched by our work
Once again in such complex organisational settings the ‘Big 5’ are our friends and using them consistently and systematically will ensure that we are seen to be an outstanding manager.