How to be a good manager

By Drum Digital
06 July 2011

When he got a well-deserved promotion from business advisor at a Gauteng entreneurship development NGO to manager with his own portfolio, Mandla Nkomo (37) realised his working world was about to change forever.

“My former boss became my peer and the colleagues I had worked with on so many tasks were now reporting to me,” he explains.

“It was a huge responsibility but I was fortunate in that I’d built a good relationship with my manager over the years and he’d gradually increased my responsibilities before promoting me,” he says.

Still, Mandla realised that becoming a successful manager would take experience, skill and maturity and he would be judged at a different level.

“As a manager you are expected to perform certain tasks at a certain level of competence. If you fail, the consequences are more severe than if you’re an employee that messes up,” he notes.

“Employees get warnings for under-performing or for incompetence – managers get fired,” warns Mandla.

While being promoted to a managerial position is exciting and rewarding, it can also be difficult and stressful, especially if you’re now managing former colleagues or friends.

Here we give tips on how to effectively manage the transition from employee to manager.

DO . . .

1 Address personal dynamics - New managers are often not trained to address personal conflict at work. They are usually promoted because they can handle the operational side of things, but it doesn’t mean that they are good at managing people.

Tip Address performance or behavioural problems with the employee in question in private and ask HR for advice. Be calm and caring, yet firm when discussing the issue. Ask the employee what can be done to improve the problem and come up with a concrete plan to ensure progress is made.

2 Take things slowly - Making too many changes right away could cause disruptions in the workplace.

Tip Ease into your new role and establish and build relationships with employees before making big changes.

3 Stick to the rules - New managers often unwittingly break HR policies because they discuss confidential matters with colleagues who are their friends as well.

Tip Don’t discuss confidential management matters with any employees and don’t leave confidential documents lying around where they can be seen.

4 Live up to your reputation - You’ve worked hard to get to management and now that your dream has come true, don’t take a back seat. Now is not the time to rest on your laurels. All eyes are on you to prove that you deserve the promotion.

Tip Show them what you’re made of, that you are the right person for the job and earn the respect of colleagues, employees and your employers.

5 Praise your team members - If you always take credit for a job done well, but blame one of your team members when things go wrong you will lose credibility as a leader. Remember, you are ultimately responsible for your team’s successes and failures.

Tip Give credit where it’s due and understand that as the team leader you are ultimately responsible for everyone’s performance. If your team works extra hours, so should you.

DON'T . . .

6 Micromanage - Instead of delegating tasks and setting deadlines, you watch your employees like a hawk. No one likes it. Not only does it give the impression you have no confidence in your staff but you will distract them and prevent them from completing their tasks successfully.

Tip Delegate, set deadlines and expectations, but let your staff decide how they will tackle the job. Establish an open-door policy so that they feel free to ask your advice. Give input rather than instructions.

7 Leave employees to their own devices - Fear of being labelled a micromanager can drive new managers to the other extreme and they leave employees too much to their own devices. Employees need to know what is expected of them when taking on a new project. Get some feedback from the employee about how they plan to tackle the task and give them your input and advice on how best to succeed.

Tip Strike the right balance between being too involved and not being involved enough. Mastering this is essential to being a good manager.

8 Be too friendly - This applies to you if you’re promoted internally and now manage former co-workers. You are now leading the people you used to socialise with and with whom you shared complaints about the organisation. This means that your behaviour towards them has to change.

Tip You don’t have to stop being friendly, but your position dictates that there should be some professional distance between you and them.

9 Take on too much - New managers tend to put too much pressure on themselves. They forget that managing other people takes time and that this is an important part of their function now.

Tip Delegate as much as possible and learn to say “no” to being overloaded.

10 Flaunt the perks of your new position - Bragging about the fringe benefits of your new position is a sure way of making enemies, especially if you were promoted internally.

Tip Put off moving into your big new office for a week or two and don’t buy a flashy new car just yet even if you are now on the company’s car scheme. You may have earned the promotion and the perks that come with it, but you don’t have to rub everyone’s noses in it.

Read more in DRUM, 7 July 2011.

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