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MENTOR - IF I WERE YOU

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Bad, difficult or ineffective managers are everywhere, as Blair McPherson found out...
Bad, difficult or ineffective managers are everywhere, as Blair McPherson found out

I once worked for a director who stormed out of the office, saying: 'If that's your attitude then I am not continuing this conversation.' The thing was - it was his office.

You are a rare individual if you have not had at least one experience of being managed by a difficult person. As the TV show The Apprentice illustrated, such managers may be very able in their area of technical expertise but sadly lacking in people skills. In my case, I only later came to realise the director lacked confidence in his own abilities.

Having good people skills is not the same as being friendly, sociable or good company. Lots of ineffective managers are pleasant enough people. The best managers are those who inspire their staff.

Good managers encourage and support, whereas poor managers often feel the need to let you know who is the boss. Good managers make it clear what they want doing and by when, and poor managers are vague and uncertain, influenced by the last person they spoke to, using language to conceal their position rather than to clarify it. If it goes wrong, it will be because you did not do what was required, not that they failed to explain what was required. The advice is always seek clarification.

Everyone has to learn how to manage his or her manager. It helps if you understand their preferences. Do they respond to arguments based on statistics or values? Do they want the detail or the big picture? Do they think innovation is risky or want to be at the cutting edge?

In Lancashire, we have developed a leadership programme with a focus on people skills which we hope will weed the bad managers out and nurture the good ones.

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