WHAT GREAT MANAGERS DO
Have you ever transitioned to a new job and spotted the wide difference between you new boss and your old one, and said to yourself, “This new boss is amazing!”? Why the difference? What accounts for the variance in two bosses? What makes one outstanding and what makes one average? Do the people make a great manager or is a great manager made all by himself through his decisions, learnings and daily interactions?
In my quest to pick everyone’s mind on what makes a great manager, I came across a survey conducted by the Predictive Index. It sampled a roughly equal mix of 4,200 employees and managers. When asked what they felt the top traits of great managers were, they came up with a number of attributes, with a strong work ethic, being the most dominant of them. The rest of the attributes are as follows: is honest, has a strong sense of humor, is confident, has a positive attitude, makes good decisions, recognizes good works of employees, is passionate about the job, is knowledgeable about the area he or she manages and finally, has a good grasp of the business. It came as a surprise to me that certain words like trust and approachable were left out of the list. Let me bring your mind to the fact that this survey does not mention the type of managers being indulged because there are different styles of management.
In my interactions with many corporate leaders and having been led by a set of different managers myself, I am of the opinion that what truly sets a great manager from an average one is their ability to make decisions about people; how to choose people and how to use them to get remarkable results. Good managers are still able to identify and place people in certain roles but they may not pay attention to their peak points that result in extraordinary outcomes. Great managers on the other hand take time to study the unique abilities of individuals, capitalize on those abilities and integrate them into a well-coordinated team and plan. For great managers, being eccentric and being what others may call problematic does not hinder them from achieving the bigger goal.
We must note that being a great manager does not necessarily make one a great leader. The same is true vice versa. This is a point I will touch on further down. Great managers, although they have a focus on creating a winning team score the best points by refining individuals. They understand that everyone is different and unique. One of the poignant steps in managing people is identifying how they learn. If you can identify how they learn, you can guide them to growth. Although there are alternative learning styles, the adult learning theory pivots three main styles. Certain people may rely on a combination of two or perhaps all three. Nonetheless, the most important thing is to identify which one or combination help your ability to coach a person.
The first style is the analyzer, who believes in deconstructing things to understand it. Teaching an analyzer is interesting. It is not about feeding information but allowing for the information to be sought out so it can be built into piece that makes sense.
And then there is the doer, who excels whilst he is in the act of carrying out a task or project. A doer is not much of a planner. A doer prefers to go straight at it and fail at doing it to learn the lessons and learnings needed. For a doer, mistakes are raw materials for learning; foundation blocks to achieve the perfect outcome.
Lastly, there is the watcher who prefers to sit back and watch how everything plays out. Once they are in the position to watch how everything plays out, they can identify better ways of getting things done. They bother themselves with watching others analyze and doing things so they can grasp the whole content and redo it better.
I have been asked on several occasions whether there is a difference between great leaders and great managers. Are great managers, great leaders or are great leaders, great managers? You see, they are great in their own unique way. Leaders in essence are not managers of people. You may find a great leader who not necessarily a great manager because they are two different things. Here is what Marcus Buckingham of the Harvard Business Review has to say about the disparities in roles. “Great leaders discover what is universal and capitalize on it. Their job is to rally people toward a better future. Leaders can succeed in this only when they can cut through differences of race, sex, age, nationality, and personality and, using stories and celebrating heroes, tap into those very few needs we all share. The job of a manager, meanwhile, is to turn one person’s particular talent into performance. Managers will succeed only when they can identify and deploy the differences among people, challenging each employee to excel in his or her own way. This doesn’t mean a leader can’t be a manager or vice versa. But to excel at one or both, you must be aware of the very different skills each role requires.”
I have worked with several interesting people. One time, I hired a young lady to assist me in planning and coordinating my events. She was nothing like the person I was looking for. Although she claimed she could do the job, her appearance did not indicate she paid attention to detail, one of the core skills I required of a person in this role. But I decided to give her a chance, so I employed her. Every time I gave this young lady a task that did not contain specific instructions, she would do a very average job. It was quite disturbing considering I needed every detail to be as exactly as I pictured it. She was not bad at doing what she needed to but she was not good at being creative or being left to deliver on her own terms. So, I tried something new with her after much deliberation. Every time I gave her an assignment, I would outline all the things I needed to the exact specification. To my greatest surprise, she would achieve it all without fault. For her, the ability to take specific instructions was a great quality she had. In a different scenario, an average manager may have immediately decided that she was not a good fit for the job so would have let her go. In this case, what a good manager does is to try as many alternatives as possible, while paying attention to a person’s strengths and weaknesses to model for them a position where they can shine.
In reference to the research above, yes great managers are all of those things, but for me so are good managers. The defining difference is that extra painstaking effort taken by a great manager. Great managers are simply managers of talents, personalities and abilities of people. They understand the make of people and take time to identify and get the most out of each person. Although people believe they may be good at a particular task, great managers do not take their word for it. They are patient and place people in different environments to truly ascertain for themselves where a person fits. Great managers are also comfortable with the fact that people are not perfect beings. People evolve, people change, and they grow. Knowing this allows them to make adjustments to accommodate changes in people’s abilities, which gives them the freedom and space to grow.
Being a great manager has a lot to do with what they do and more importantly what they help a person achieve. The impact they make cannot be reduced to normal because not many people achieve that. After I had helped the young lady I employed to identify what her forte was, I made her responsible for her growth. She became a great manager of herself as well. With every task I assigned her, she applied herself to do things with precision to contribute in tremendous ways to both team and personal work. She was accountable for her own growth and that is what makes her a great team member.
The best managers are focused on their ability to identify talents, nurture them and make an impact. What makes them great is their influence in churning out the best in people despite popular opinion. In addition to that, they are simply great people and great managers of themselves. To shine in managing others, you must remember that great managing is about release, not transformation. It is about constantly modifying your environment to allow for eccentric and unique contributions. It is about making provision to cater to special needs to bring out the best in people. Great managers understand that people are the most valuable resource there is and all their effort are geared toward making this resource an asset.
The high performance journey is usually a process that requires commitment to understanding failures, running a post mortem on the failures and fighting to bounce back. “When you have failures in your life, your motivation to bounce back should be for the sake of others rather than yourself.” – Sir Samuel Esson Jonah (OGS)