Management makes a comeback

Management deserves to be at the top of the agenda, says a new report claiming that good managers get up to 25% more from their teams.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 29 Jun 2011
Regular readers will know that here at MT we have been championing the need for a rethink of the importance of management for some time (the clue is in our name, after all). In recent years, there has been rather too much focus on the glamour and razzmatazz of leadership, at the expense of the equally important but often less seductive business of management. In fact, we carried a big piece on this very subject in the magazine recently.

‘Managers who don’t lead are uninspiring’ as the great Prof Henry Mintzberg told MT. ‘But leaders who don’t manage are worse, they simply don’t know what’s going on’.

So much for the empirical stuff, now a new report entitled The return of the manager – this time it’s personal, conducted by our colleagues at the MindGym, has put some numbers on the difference that good management can make. Drawing on material from its own clients as well as research from the likes of McKinsey and Towers Watson, the report suggests that the difference in performance between people who say that their bosses are good at management and those who don’t can be as much as 25%. That’s not to be sniffed at - in a team of four, it’s like having a whole extra person on the payroll.

Of course the 64 dollar question is, what exactly do they mean by good management?  Well, it’s not the old industrial ideas of process control and workflow management, which in modern knowledge-based businesses are pretty well down the list of core competencies. Rather today’s good managers are those who are the most able to establish connections and relationships with the individuals in their teams, and to use those relationships to motivate, direct and develop them. ‘The numbers are still important’ says MindGym CEO Octavius Black ‘But they aren’t what differentiates you any more. That’s the ability to get the most out of people.’

Good managers are also worth their weight in gold in terms of raising employee engagement and retaining key employees, which according to the findings can be lifted by up to 26% and 20% respectively.

None of which should really come as a surprise to the occupants of the boardroom – business is after all an essentially collective endeavour. And yet when it comes to selecting and developing managers, many firms continue simply to identify their best individual performers and promote them, with precious little regard to the fact that the skills which make them good at one job don’t necessarily transfer to the other.

Which brings us neatly back to where we started: leaders need to take managers, and management, more seriously, and be seen to be doing so. To redraw the balance between leadership and management. As Black says, ‘My view is that, although they are often very important, moments of real leadership are rare in any given role. Mostly it’s about management.’ Hear, hear.

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