3 things managers should master

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking at a gathering of business women in Wales, on the topic of managing conflict. It is a popular topic and the audience were very engaged.  The session was arranged as a series of questions and answers, followed by discussion.  The final question put to me was a real beauty, and reflecting upon it has given me enormous pleasure. The question was: If there were three things you would tell all managers, what would they be?  My answer was as follows:

Firstly, it takes time and application to become a good manager of people. Just because you are a brilliant lawyer, scientist, accountant, designer, teacher or engineer and you get promoted to Manager; don’t expect to know instinctively how to be a good manager. So rule number 1 – learn about the subject. Become a student of Management science.  Read books, attend courses, educate and apply yourself to the process of learning.

Secondly, managing people can be very challenging, in particular when you are implementing change and/or coping with conflict. When we are pressed out of our comfort zones and confronted by new challenges we are tested as managers, and this is when strengths and weaknesses tend to emerge. So rule number 2 – learn about yourself. Become Self Aware. Know your strengths and weaknesses through honest self assessment and reflection.

Finally, good managers need to understand leadership, and develop an appropriate leadership style, so that people respond positively to you and willingly accept your authority. Leadership is about hearts and minds, and the ability to be yourself, whilst inspiring others, is a powerful skill set which is definitely worth acquiring.  This is particularly important when managing people through change in uncertain times. So rule number 3 – develop your own individual leadership style. Become an Authentic Leader. Learn about leadership styles and develop your own, based on your unique personality, values and skills.

So there it is.  Not rocket science, just application and clear focus. It is a journey, and there will be mistakes and crisis of confidence along the way. Many people find it helpful to have a mentor or a coach to provide support and inspiration.   As with the mastery of any art, it involves discipline, application and practice until in the end a state of grace is acquired were leadership is made to look easy and natural. Some people are naturally gifted with the ability to win hearts and minds, just as some people take easily to performing management tasks.  However I firmly believe that building on the unique gifts we are born with, good managers and leaders can be made.

© Barbara Capstick
August 2011.