The Good Manager

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By Nilesh Bhagat, CHRP

Good managers lead, enable, believe in and trust their teams. They gave a distinct mindset when working with their teams – they believe their team can.

They abide by the frameworks proposed in several contemporary leadership and psychological theories, namely Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) and social identity theory. Good managers respect the bonds they form with the members of their team. What results is positive relationships and trust, which is leveraged to create unified direction and buy-in. Good managers become positive models for their teams, resulting in mentor-like relationships – followers aspire to embody many of the characteristics that they see in their managers in their quests for growth. These bonds also help to define individuals’ identities, which act to reinforce trust, meaning and direction for a team. As social identity theory suggests, good managers focus on creating successful groups and ‘(g)roups give us a sense of social identity: a sense of belonging to the social world’.

If one is treated a certain way, she will think and act accordingly – such is the power of our social nature, psychologically driven by the forces of social proof, cognitive dissonance and social identity. If one is treated as capable, intelligent, creative, she will think she is all these things and, through positive reinforcement, will develop these skills. Good managers understand this – whether explicitly or not – and use this to create positive and meaningful work environments.

Bad managers micromanage. They have the mindset that people are not capable, need constant supervision and generally dislike work. They need constant control over what’s done and achieve this through microscopic monitoring of work-related behavior. You can’t completely blame bad managers; our work structures are hierarchies which demand rigid control in the name of repeatable efficiencies. If things are monitored and controlled to produce a specific outcome in a specific way, this has traditionally led to success. Of course, the key word here is traditionally – the competitive landscape has evolved far too much and is changing at too great a pace for success to be born out of such inflexibility. Like hierarchal structures, bad managers are slow to adapt, tough to change and (as Duncan Watts in his book, Six Degrees has noted) poor conductors of robust communication across levels.

Like the hierarchal structures of the traditional organization, the bad manager is a perishing breed. As David Rock has proposed, when our sense of status, control, autonomy, relatedness and fairness are challenged, we respond by avoiding. When a bad manager attempts to micromanage and control your attempts at finding solutions to work problems, you begin to avoid your manager. This inevitably leads to avoiding the context and environment in which your trigger points are challenged – one doesn’t need to go much further to understand how this can negatively impact organizational performance.

As we move forward with our organizations of good managers, why not discard the term that leaves remnants of the bad ones? Our good managers are more than that. They’re good leaders.

Nilesh Bhagat, CHRP, is a rewards coordinator with Best Buy Canada. Nilesh graduated from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, First Class Honours. He majored in Human Resources Management and tacked on an extended minor in Psychology. He’s a self-confessed nerd (the first step is admitting), likes to read, loves hockey and is struggling with the complexities of learning the game of golf.

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