2. Lead by being Collegiate

I generally adopt a broadly collegiate approach. This is not just to be nice, but because I believe that it is a very effective way to work. Of course there will always be situations when decisive leadership is required and I am comfortable that this is part of my role. However, in these circumstances, I think that it helps enormously if you have already built up a mutual respect between yourself and your team.

3. Provide a Clear Vision but let people achieve this their way

I like to give my team a very clear idea of what we are trying to do and why (a vision that I would also expect them to help me form), but then give them the space to achieve these objectives in their own way. It can be very tempting to think that you know best. However being dictatorial can be demotivating for the people working for you and deprives them of a chance to learn. Of course it is just possible that you don’t know best after all and that someone else will come up with a novel and superior approach.

4. Challenge people to help them develop

One of my prime responsibilities is to grow talent for the organisation where I work. This means challenging my people to take on new things and delegating tasks even if it may be a stretch for someone to carry these out in the first instance. This is the main way that people grow and the occasional false step is a reasonable price to pay for increasing people’s experience and broadening their horizons.

5. Deal with underperformance in a timely manner

When someone working for me struggles, my first duty is to help them. This can often require a long-term commitment to coaching and some difficult conversations about where improvement is required. I have two guiding principles:

  • be as open and direct as you can be as it is much fairer on everyone
  • act sooner rather than later, the longer a problem persists the more difficult it will be to address.

This approach has often either led to problems either being overcome, or to a mutual recognition that things are not going to work out. This latter outcome, while not exactly great, is vastly superior to a more aggressive approach (and also has less of a negative impact on the rest of the team).

In summary, I try to manage people in the way that I would like to be managed. I really can't see how an approach to management which fails to embrace this central principle could be successful, certainly in the medium term.

However, in common with what I suggest in point 3 above, I am sure that there are some different techniques which have worked well for other people. What have been the things that have helped you to be a great manager, or what have been the characteristics of the best manager you have had?