March 18, 2019

What Makes a Good Manager?

All too often, people are promoted on the basis of technical competence – ie. because they are good at doing their job. Or because a vacancy comes up and they know the company, the product, the service, the industry and it’s time they moved up a rung… Are they promoted because they display all the right skills, attitudes and competencies to be a good manager? Do they have any management experience? People management? Project management?

Some companies and managers are great at succession planning, at ensuring potential managers work on assignments or projects that develop their people management skills before they take on an actual management role. But unfortunately, a lot don’t.

This means that many new managers find themselves in their new role, expected to hit the ground running but without any training. It might be a year or two (or worst case scenario, it never happens) before any such training materialises.

A survey of over 670 managers by the business performance training company, Impellus, demonstrates how daunting this kind of situation is for first time managers. It found that only 20% of respondents felt sufficiently confident about people management when they were first appointed. That means that 80% did not feel confident, which is a pretty high number if you ask me.

What else does the research tell us? It says that 40% felt scared to let go and delegate tasks, 38% were unsure what was expected of them and 33% struggled with managing their time. Also, only 34% felt they had the full support of their line manager when taking over the team.

On top of that, we’ve all heard the expression ‘People leave managers, not companies’. Now that piles the pressure on as a first time manager!

How to be a good manager

However, like any new job, there are things you can do to help yourself get competent faster. So, find out what training there is (if any) for new managers at your organisation. There might be a formal training programme or some informal resources you can tap into. Think about what you can do in your own time too. It’s amazing how a bit of extra reading and reflection time can get your brain fired up, thinking about what people management requires, what the pitfalls are, common challenges etc. You need to think about your role as a people manager just as much as thinking about the new job you are performing.

Another great thing you could do is ask if you could get a mentor, either internally or externally. There is nothing better than having someone who can show you the ropes and act as a sounding board. You could bring any challenges you are experiencing and ask them for advice on how to deal with them.

Consider reaching out to your network of peers too. There’s nothing like talking to other people to find out that they are experiencing the same challenges too. This is both reassuring and useful – you can bounce ideas off each other, learn what works and what doesn’t.

Also remember, like anything, practice tends to help, but you do have to work at it. Don’t expect everything to fall into place. You need to work at being a good people manager, even if you have all the right attributes and attitudes.

How to manage people

If you’re looking into taking external support to better your leadership and management skills, it might be worth looking at courses. Luckily, DPG have been in the business of Leadership & Management for nearly 30 years. You can check out their Leadership and Management programmes here.