“Why are there relatively few great managers and yet there are many great employees?” This question was posed by a particularly disgruntled employee therefore this paper will attempt to explore this notion. Arguably, a common theme among the less than great managers are the choices made by those who become managers and or the lack of management training provided to them. Having seen a fair share of those who really have little clue as to what makes a good manager and seen a few great managers, it begs the question: “What makes the difference?” We first need to consider the question, “What is the purpose of a manager?”

Peter Drucker and Taylor and Fayol are considered influential thinkers within the field of management. Their work is still used by managers worldwide. Drucker emphasised that management is a distinct function and being a manager is a distinct responsibility. The truth is that some employees exercise autonomy which results in little need for a manager. One of the challenges observed even before considering the purpose of a manager is that there seems to be the case that people are promoted to the managerial level because they are effective at a particular skill set even though this does not suddenly make them management calibre.

In collaborating for this paper, thirty employees from across London, England and Kingston, Jamaica were asked what were the top five qualities that they would like their managers to possess. Popular responses included good communication skills, ability to identify the strengths in his or her team and use them for good teamwork, empathy, willingness to go the extra mile for the team, proactive, ability to manage in a non-discriminatory manner. Many of the themes that the responses highlighted were recurring despite responses being elicited across different cultural groups.

Becoming a manager is somehow seen as reward for doing well in some other job that did not involve management at all. Inadequate management training or no training may be given. There seems to be the expectation that as the individual performs well in their present role, they will automatically be an effective manager.  Fortunately, there are a few who transition neatly and smoothly into this promotion. Regrettably, there are many who do not. This is counterproductive for the organisation, the individual promoted and for those whom they are attempting to manage.

At times people have been thrown into management positions without being trained or even being given a clear understanding of what is required. The understanding of the growth of the knowledge worker (Drucker) and furthermore the impact of this on changing working environments is often not recognised resulting in missed opportunities for creativity and ultimately frustrated staff.

Of course, there are organisations where interdependent working rather than authoritative management practices exist resulting in high staff satisfaction and better functioning organisations. Yet in other organisations, managers take no time to know and make use of the many skills which are held by the staff they employ. More consistently organisations think about how they can reshape individuals who enter their doors into high functioning objects that fit into the square pegs that the organisation holds by way of the defining job titles or functions, rather than looking at how they could best reshape that square peg and shape it into something even better by using the many skill sets held by the individuals that they employ. Hard work I know but worth it!

It is important to know as much as you can about the skill sets held by the people you employ, encourage critical thinking and offer acknowledgement when ideas are presented. A great manager will help individuals to grow which will in turn make a better team and better organisation.

To be successful the training and retraining of a manager is essential. It seems that for some, when they are given or attain a management role, for some reason they believe they have ‘arrived’. Often in these cases there is no understanding that there is work to be done to equip themselves for the management role.

Keep up the good work those of you who are great managers and don’t forget to retrain and retool with the changing of the times. If no one has told you are a good manager yet, start thinking about why that might be. If you are that good someone would have noticed. Believe me people are thankful to good managers and usually let them know.

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