In a discussion with The Business Standard, Minarul Islam, head of human resources at Genex Infosys, and Sahebul Islam (Dipu), senior manager of plant and engineering services at Beximco Pharmaceuticals, share their insights into skills good managers should have
A bad manager can take a good staff, destroy him or her, cause the best employees to flee and the remainder to lose all motivation – this popular corporate proverb sums up the importance of a manager as a core member of any team or department.
What makes a good manager? Being a good manager requires a blend of different skills. Many people believe management implies control and leeway, while for others, it is all about leadership.
There are a few basic qualities a good manager should possess, such as good personality, leadership, communication, being organised, ability to multitask and being a visionary.
Managers can be a great source of motivation or frustration in the workplace for the sub-ordinates.
This article discusses some essentials skills managers should have to be a motivating leader for their team.
Motivating: A good manager should be able to motivate their team members. Without motivation, the team is not likely to produce quality work or innovate or meet deadlines.
"Motivation can come in different forms; it can either be tangible or intangible. We often get the misconception that motivation is some kind of financial benefit, but that is not always correct. Each individual is different, and gets motivated in different ways," said Minarul Islam.
"For some, training or learning opportunity is very lucrative, while recognition in the monthly bulletin or office noticeboard gives the feeling of belongingness to some."
"Motivation is all about getting people to take action. So, do not be vague. Avoid generalities like 'I want everyone to do their best'. Instead, say, 'I need you to come in over the weekend so we can get this project done on time'," Sahebul Islam told The Business Standard.
"There are a lot of ways to motivate people or subordinates depending on the situation and environment. Some of the effective ones are these: You have to set the goal and discuss with the team what is achievable and take feedback from individual members from time to time."
"It is important to build trust among all the team members and let them do their work freely, but monitoring is required. Be transparent with subordinates so there are no surprises and give them the chance to ask questions and feedback. Make them feel like they own the company. Motivation is always effective for individuals," he added.
Committed: A manager must show commitment to the team's goals and the business as a whole. If a manager is not 100 percent committed to business targets, they cannot expect their team members to be committed to delivering the best results either.
Talking about commitment, Minarul said, "When we are talking about a project manager, they must own the project. It is their baby, and even before the project officially starts, they need to get involved."
"Starting from planning the project, selecting the resources, executing, and delivering, everything falls under the scope of the manager's role. But apart from that, they also need to have people skills to know their resources, and how to get the best out of them. Commitment is not just at the work level; a manager's commitment needs to be shown towards the team also."
Sahebul said, "At least a few commandments are required for a successful project manager. A manager should always prioritise the current project and treat it as the most important one in the world. This perspective will keep them focused and positive."
"When working on any project, it has to be clear to the manager, and also to the project team and the sponsors. It has to be known by everyone so that it is relevant.
"Deadlines will arrive faster than anyone thinks. Make sure the deadlines are known and clearly communicated. If there is any slip, ensure it is justified and well-communicated. Do everything possible for the project to be successful. That is the manager's job," he added.
Empathetic: Having empathy for the sub-ordinates and the colleagues is the key to be a good manager. This quality sets a good manager apart from the bad ones. An empathic manager understands his teammates and earns respect from them. Such managers can deal with workplace disputes and team conflicts better.
Talking about this, Sahebul said, "You have to give the subordinates recognition for their achievements at least by sending a thank you message."
"Let the team members have an open discussion and share the various opinions with a conclusion. Show the team members the bigger picture or dream. Share the story and sacrifice for the team members."
Fairness in mind: It is important that a manager avoids playing favourites to keep balance in the team because people are quick to sniff out words and actions that are unfair or self-serving.
A manager should keep an open mind.
Evaluating hard-working employees: "Everybody loves recognition, or being noticed. Be it for your hard work, a target achievement or even the completion of an online course, the moment you know your manager appreciates you, you feel happy, and get a little bit more loyal towards your work," said Minarul.
"It gives them a sense of being someone. So, of course, recognising and appreciating are very positive matters for motivating them. It does not take too much effort to say 'good job'. So, why not say it? It also puts you in a position where teammates start respecting you."
"No organisation can sustain for a longer period of time if it does not recognise its hard-working employees," added Sahebul.
Giving useful feedbacks: Without constructive feedbacks, your employees will become frustrated. Sometimes, just a feedback can also be a motivation, as it gives the feeling of being noticed. A small pat on the shoulder from the line manager can mean a lot. So, it totally depends on the situation. A monthly restaurant visit does seem to be bringing the team closer.
Minarul believes that feedbacks are mandatory, but they should not be like a boring story, and should be crisp and precise.
From his experience, Sahebul stated that constructive feedbacks are one of the best things managers can provide to their employees.
"When delivered properly, it can reinforce positive behaviour, correct any negative performance and ensure a strong culture in the team. However, giving negative feedback is not so easy. Feedback should be spontaneous and regular."
Ability to spot talents and delegate work accordingly: Sometimes managers tend to do everything themselves as they have less faith in their sub-ordinates while others do nothing. A wise manager can spot talents in the team and delegate work responsibly.
Speaking about this, Minarul said, "You can spot a talent only when you know what you are looking for. We often confuse talent with skill, and it can be a waste of time. Talent is not just something that is recognisable, but something that can be unleashed."
"Talent is not for today, but what we might need in the next few years. Also, the values a person carries are worth considering. You do not always have to find talents from outside; they might be around you, just waiting to be identified. Get as much data about the people you can, which might show their traits.
"Delegation is always a tricky part. It is not just passing the work to someone. Of course, you would want to delegate the work to the talented people, but that is not enough. Whenever you are delegating, there must be a proper explanation for the delegation, so that they know why they are being given the work and the right instructions should be there to guide them also," explained Minarul.
He added, "If needed, they can be trained to achieve the desired level, but we have to remember that we do not just delegate work, we delegate authority and responsibility also. Delegating to the right people with right directives and timely feedback does improve the quality of the output."
Sahebul echoed Minarul's words and said, "Where possible, include people in the delegation process. Empower them to decide what tasks are to be delegated and when. Match the amount of responsibility with the amount of authority."
"Provide adequate support, and be available to answer questions. Always focus on results. I allowed the person to control their own methods and processes, and this facilitates success and trust. Upward delegation needs to be avoided. Discuss recommended solutions, and do not simply provide an answer."
He added, "Discuss timelines and deadlines, and agree on a schedule of checkpoints. Make adjustments as necessary. Always take time to review all submitted work."
Supportive: Managers should support their staff when the latter find any task difficult or fail to understand parts of the process. They should also support them when they offer suggestions or discuss personal development during performance appraisal meeting.
"If the team accomplished an important milestone, let them know what a great job they have done. Share ideas with them and elevate good ideas and support them but do not make them yours," said Sahebul.
A manager should also be accountable and supportive towards the team if the latter face any failure or the project goes sideways.
"Managers must support their project team especially after decisions have been made and agreed upon, even if the results are not good. After all, there must have been a good reason why that decision was made," added Sahebul.