June 29, 2022

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Why being a manager matters more than ever

2 min read

Management matters. Above all, managers matter. If nothing else, when managers fail, things have a tendency to go wrong.

My first weekly column here was about the damning report into the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which said “overarching management failures” in the oil industry created the conditions for the fatal explosion and oil spill.

This one — the last of some 500 I’ve written since 2011 — coincides with a probe into the needless deaths of babies at a UK hospital trust. Factors included a dysfunctional “culture of ‘them and us’,” staffing and training gaps, and a lack of psychological safety. All could have been corrected by better line management and governance.

Bad management leads, at best, to unnecessary misery for staff, and at worst, as these two extreme cases suggest, to disaster and death.

Yet if managers are in the public eye at all, they tend to be the focus of customer irritation (“Who’s your manager?”), the target of cuts (big companies are forever boasting about plans to remove “layers of management”), or the butt of satire: think Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers or Ricky Gervais or Steve Carell as the over-promoted bosses in the UK and US editions of The Office. No wonder few aspire to be middle managers, itself more often a term of disparagement, and many shy away from it.

To focus on the negative, though, is to miss the essence of what good managers bring. They “add value”, not just in the arid sense of improving the overall results of a business, though they do that too, but by ensuring team members become the best they can be.

I’ve been asked more than once recently whether the rapid acceleration of digital communication during lockdown made managers redundant. It did allow senior leaders to interact directly with more staff, and vice versa. It also exposed the actual redundancy of micro-managers whose authority was based on being able to see their team hunched over their…

2022-04-03 22:03:06

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