In praise of good managers

I am aware that to some I may come across as anti-management in my writing. I am not. Most organisations, certainly those of significant size, need managers. They need people to design effective processes, select good teams, help them get a sense of direction, and help them resolve any issues that they face.

I have been lucky enough to work with a few great managers in my twenty plus years of corporate life and one characteristic they all shared was that they trusted me. They mostly left me to get on with what I knew I needed to do, and only intervened when I needed help. Sadly I also had many dreadful managers who were either out of their depth and adding little value, or hung up about the role of management and determined to micro manage me whether I needed it or not.

This is what I am against – an unquestioned and unthinking management culture. Deeply held ideas about status, or assumptions about a need to keep staff under control which most of the time are misplaced and invariably counter productive.

Can we do without them altogether? I don’t think so. There are interesting organisations who are trying to do without a formal management structure but even there someone sometime, even on a rotation or ad hoc basis has to assume the role.

So without getting hung up about the differences between managers and leaders, and assuming that anyone can take on a management function even for short periods of time, what does it take to do it well? Obsess about ironing out blocks and inefficiencies in your systems and processes. Intervene when you have to but not when you don’t and certainly less than you feel you should. Pick the right people, fire them up, and point them in the right direction. Do all of the above and things will almost certainly be fine – but if they are not, assume from the start that you are part of the problem!

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