Do you think you’re a good manager? If you do, can you say what you do which makes you good?

UK surveys repeatedly tell us that most British workers think they are badly managed. Perhaps it’s because new managers are promoted from a job they are good at to a job leading people, something they often have no experience of. It’s amazing how little support novice managers receive when this happens.

Even good managers often don’t know what it is they do to manage well. Others have an idea but can’t articulate it. Finally, there are managers who manage well, who are clear about what they do, and who can say what it is which works for the people who report to them.

It is very important, indeed it is critical, that managers should not just aim to be good but should also be able to say how they do it. This is because a central role of management is developing people and fostering their learning. If you can articulate good management practice, you can help others to become good managers too; and help non-managers to approach their working relationships better and to work better in teams.

For managers who can’t do this, reports can help by giving them feedback so they have a better idea of what they do well, what they could improve, and how others see them. HR facilitation of tools like the Johari window and 360-degree evaluations can start off this process if the feedback culture in a workplace is fragile or absent.

Of course, there are other ways of learning than just hearing it from the horse’s mouth. We can shadow a good manager, and some of us can learn, simply by observing, as Honey and Mumford suggest. Although the claims made by theories about learning styles such as theirs are contested, it is at least clear that people do learn in different ways and that managers can assist this process by adapting the way they teach, instruct, facilitate, mentor or whatever they do to develop their people.

So good managers also need to know about how each of the people who report to them learns best. Do you?

Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, writer and coach, based in Malta, who helps people develop their leadership and communication skills for working internationally:


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