What makes a good manager? Is it something you’re born with, or something you learn? Is there management instinct? I don’t know for sure. I’ve been in business for more than 30 years now, and I still don’t know.
A few years ago I was trapped on a plane with nothing to read but The One-Minute Manager, by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. It was written in 1982, and still sells very well today, according to Amazon.com ranking, even 26 years later. It’s in the top 2,000 books.
It was a short plane trip, and an easy book to read. It seemed about like this:
Make expectations specific. Tell people what’s expected. Follow up. Track results. Tell people afterwards how they did.
Several things struck me about that:
- Completely obvious, but
- still very valuable.
- Some things that seem completely obvious, once said (or written) still needed to be said (or written).
- Authors deserve special credit for keeping a simple book short. This one was easy to read in a one-hour flight.
I’ve never been much of a manager myself. That’s no big deal, of course; lots of people aren’t managers. In my case, though, people expected me to be, because I’ve had a lifetime of successful entrepreneurship. But entrepreneurship and management are different things.
I don’t think I’m alone. I’ve just been browsing the Amazon.com site. Small and simple books like that one sell lots of copies to lots of people. Who Moved My Cheese?, another that fits that description, sells phenomenally well. It’s in the top 300 at Amazon.com
What makes a good manager? Is it confidence, relative certainty, good communications skills, comfort with authority? I just read How to Be a Great Boss on a blog ironically named “Dumb Little Man.” And it’s a good list, too, but not surprising. Standard stuff: listen, communicate, say “Thank You.” And this one: bring food and arrange treats. What is this, kids’ soccer?
Thinking about it, I want to ask the experts some questions back: what makes a good manager?
- Is it getting things done?
- Getting other people to get things done?
- Is it doing the company’s bidding?
- Being well liked?
- Advancing your own career?
- Inspiring people, or leading them?
- Coordinating a team?
- Is a good manager able to do the work instead?
- Do you have to know how to code to manage programmers?
And some really fundamental questions: is a good manager liked, hated, respected, feared, or all or none of these? Is it possible to lead people to higher productivity and the greater good of the business while being disliked? Is it possible to do that while being universally liked? Does a good manager have friends, allies, enemies, bosses, underlings, followers, or minions?
Is it about carrots and sticks, or both?