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What does a Manager Do?

Jűrgen Grobler is a man of wisdom.  Never heard of him?   If you’re a rowing fan you’ll know he’s the Great Britain Men’s Rowing Team Olympic Coach.  I hadn’t heard of him either until I came across his rules for team coaching:

  1. Show you love your job
  2. Safeguard mutual trust and openness
  3. Question yourself before you question the team
  4. Don’t run away from tough decisions
  5. No criticism means no progress
  6. Listen to what your team is telling you
  7. No two people are the same
  8. Shun favouritism

I don’t like to over-emphasise sport as an analogy for the work environment, but this list is a fantastic guide for any manager, at any level.  Think about it, what does a manager do?

What does a Manager Do?

“A manager must work as an individual, and manage other individuals, while achieving group objectives.”

Grobler’s eight rules sound good.  You probably nodded in agreement as your read them.  Feeling intuitively correct, they are deceptively simple.  It’s easy to understand the concept, but much more challenging to implement the rules successfully.

  1. Show you love your job – Think about the people who inspire you most.  They probably demonstrate passion, an authentic enthusiasm and willingness to always go the extra mile.  In sport it’s the player who keeps on really playing the game right up to the final whistle.  In work it’s the person who seems to take on the tasks with relish, not resentment.  Its ultimate expression is the work that doesn’t feel like work.
  2. Safeguard mutual trust and openness – This is a two-way process.  You have to trust your team, and they have to trust you, but this can only work with openness and honesty.  Some managers use knowledge as power – a way to preserve superiority.  Some staff keep information to themselves in order to show their managers up.  If you’re straight with each other, then that trust leads to much better team performance.
  3. Question yourself before you question the team – Don’t “shoot first and ask questions later”.  Before you tear strips off anybody, just STOP for a moment, and ask yourself, “could I have done anything differently to prevent this problem?” Only then should you start questioning others.
  4. Don’t run away from tough decisions – Avoiding issues doesn’t make them go disappear.  If there’s an elephant in the room, it’s your job to deal with it.  As a manager, you have to make decisions, even when they’re unpalatable.  Neither your team, nor your boss will thank you for not addressing the problem.  Instead, they will regard you as ineffective.
  5. No criticism means no progress – In order for things to improve, you have to ‘critique’ them.  The key to constructive criticism rather than destructive criticism is to examine facts – not feelings.  Play the ball – not the man.
  6. Listen to what your team is telling you – If you don’t listen to your team, how can you manage them productively?  Whether they’re complaining or suggesting, you need to know what’s going on.  It’s quite likely that there’s merit in what they’re saying.  If you don’t listen, they may stop sharing information, get turned off, or poison the atmosphere by moaning to other people.  None of these options is good for you as their manager.
  7. No two people are the same – Adapt your style to get the best out of each member of your team.  This is not pandering to individuals, it’s about understanding what approach works for each person.  It shows you understand what makes them tick.
  8. Shun favouritism – “Teacher’s pets” don’t get respect, and nor does the teacher.  If you show undue preference for particular people, you’ll cause resentment among the rest of your team.  It’s not about who you ‘like’ for the job, but who’s ‘best’ for the job.  What is the evidence for your decision?

These eight rules provide a pretty good foundation for any manager looking to create a positive team environment.  You can be firm but fair, get the job done, and still have a pleasant workplace.  If you like to be managed in this way, you can take it the people who work for you like it too.  I’ll just add two rules of my own:

9. Smile and greet the people you work with, individually, every day.

10. Catch people doing things right!

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