Characteristics of a manager

Close your eyes for a minute. Forget where you work and who’s around you on the organisational chart (and completely ignore what you saw on The Apprentice last week).

Now, imagine you’ve a blank sheet of paper and you’re picking a management team. Above, below or alongside you – it doesn’t matter – just an all-round ‘manager’, whatever they may be. What attributes and characteristics are you looking for?

Mine goes something like this: P.E.R.C.H.

Passion: neither the footballer, the waiter or the nurse are going to be particularly good at their profession without a passion for the role. Passion’s needed for the business, the company goal, your products and the market. From that point of view isn’t it a crime to be in a role for 40, 50, 60+ hours a week and not be passionate about it?

Passion spills into the product/service you trade in. You want to learn and grow yourself as well as the business; it forces you to improve your knowledge and skill. And most of all passion makes you obsessed with your consumer: what do they like, what would they change about your organisation, what else can we do for them?

Entrepreneur: this goes to the heart of it. Managers need to treat the firm as their own. Yes they could spend another £20 on semi-handy stationary this week but that would be wasteful. They could add 20 man-hours to the wages bill, but if the rota were juggled and tasks reprioritised then it wouldn’t be necessary. Spending is fine – expected even – but is the spending right? That’s where a manager orders as though it’s being paid from their own wallet and does it with integrity.

They’re not heard to say, ‘This place is rubbish…‘ because they really take their part in ‘this place’ as seriously as if it were their own. And as such they make their own decisions and don’t wait to be steered around every corner and bump in the road.

Responsibility: out of everything, responsibility distinguishes the shepherd from the herd. It’s where you take ownership – not to just say sorry when things go wrong, but to find the cause of the problems and prevent recurrence. It allows you to bounce when you fail and it’s “the buck stops here” mentality. In a way it’s being parental.

No, you’re not expected to write every email, to pull every tooth, lay every brick, stack every shelf, bake every loaf and sign every client, but when these things involve your team, then you’ve got to know that it – and they – are your responsibility.

Coach: managers need a desire to get the best out of their team, but with more in mind than today’s result. This might be additional life skills as technical wherewithall. To teach and have teams grow as individuals, to take pride in developing them even though it may hurt you in mid- to long-term as they move on.

Listening and empathy are two of the biggest strings to a manager’s bow and can be utilised fully here. Finally, please don’t forget, intimacy builds teams, not strategy.

Humour: this is seriously underestimated in business teams. Give me brilliant work, give me results, give me a strong team, but do it all without a smile? You’ll often hear military personnel say of their team, ‘They’re a great bunch.‘ Or when talking of a colleague, ‘He’s a top bloke; really good laugh.’ They know only too well the value that humour has in a stressful work environment.

So don’t leave your personality at home but don’t create one either. Understand that saying rubbish like, “I don’t do failure,” in every meeting makes you sound more like David Brent than Stuart Rose, i.e. clueless. Your personality and a little humour is likely to become the cornerstone of your team’s, and possibly, the organisation’s culture.

Wow, that’s quite a repertoire and the depth and breadth of it, is why so many new managers struggle with the role. Management is a skill, an art even. It’s made more difficult still as the line is blurring between management and leadership. It’s one that’s difficult to define and even more difficult to teach in today’s tight and pressured world.

What am I missing here?


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