I’ve been around a long time. Almost 35 years spent in the workplace, the last 25 running my own business. One thing I’ve learnt – and that’s re-enforced more the older I get – is that management styles fall into two distinct camps.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with many seriously impressive people over the years. I’ve also seen examples of behaviour (they weren’t anything remotely resembling “management”) that have been both woeful and depressing.
At this point in my career I naturally find myself working with a lot of young people. They appear to like working with me and, for the most part, I feel privileged to be around their energy, enthusiasm and positivity. And, crucially, to share whatever it is (positive and negative) I may have learnt over the years.
I left school with minimal qualifications, never went to university, or studied management, but I’ve learnt a lot over time from wonderful bosses during my “day job” life and equally wonderful clients I’ve worked with in business. And, whatever else my flaws and inadequacies may be (and they’re many), I know how to talk to people from the receptionist to the chairman of the board. And do you know something, it’s really not that hard.
I’ve known the most senior of managers with people skills in droves (the peerless Donald Steel springs instantly to mind). These are professionals who aren’t threatened by others, who take joy in imparting whatever knowledge and experience they have acquired to nurture the next generation, and who can light up a room with their mere presence.
I’ve also known individuals at director level who can barely be bothered to say “good morning” to people on their team they deem either too lowly or of insufficient use to warrant engagement. It’s a shameful way to behave but this sort of person appears to care for nothing but their own ego. They’re also clearly riddled with insecurities and threatened by others. My wonderful long-time associate Lyn Hodges refers to their type in a much more entertaining tone. She dubs them SWS (small willy syndrome)!
Things also went wrong when we adopted that hideous term “human resources”. There are no two words that speak more to the ineptitude of a certain management style than these. I remember a time when you had a personnel officer, someone you could talk to and who would help both develop your career and also assist if you had other welfare issues. From what I can see – and mercifully I have little to do with them – HR appears to be merely about form filling and bean counting. For heaven’s sake, they don’t even seem to sit on interview panels as a given any more.
At the gym I go to we had a general manager (GM) who, in the two and half years she was in post, I probably saw on no more than a dozen occasions (and I am there a lot!). By the time she was moved to another club, the staff were demotivated, standards had slipped across the board, and there was a highly disgruntled membership. A perfectly pleasant woman but she had the air of someone happier locked away in her office and doing “management” by spreadsheet.
Enter new GM. Within two weeks I’d seen more of him than I’d had of his predecessor in her entire tenure. He was ever-present, setting-up his laptop and working from the cafe; he was (and is) constantly engaging with members, and his team has a renewed sense of energy and fun. He’s even to be seen clearing tables and helping behind the bar during busy spells. Totally discrete about what had gone before, he did say one thing to me that sums his impressive management style perfectly: “We need to get back to doing the small things right. We do that and everything else will follow”.
I know which management style I prefer. And I know which one betters the business, its performance and – most importantly – its people.
As for the SWS’, they may believe they’re many things. One thing they’ll never be though is respected. And without that, you are no manager!