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The Most Important Role Of The Manager

Elaine Sihera

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How often have you heard a manager complain that communication is not effective because no one seems to be taking any notice of the memos or directives? Well, we are always tempted to believe that there is ineffective communication within some organisations but replace one of the usual memos with one saying that each person has won a million dollars and then sit back and look at just how effective that communication is!

The usual manner of communicating is not as effective as it could be because many managers have the wrong priorities to make their communication effective so staff gradually become selective in what they react to. The highest priorities for a leader of others should be the following, and in the order stated:

* To give a sense of purpose and vision to their team.
* To set high standards.
* To plan strategy and future action.
* To set goals and objectives.
* To communicate clearly

You cannot communicate clearly if you have no standards for your team to adhere to, they have little purpose, and there is no strategy, no goals or objectives. Everything will be confusing and, worst of all, the communication won't match up with the intention of the department or wider organisation.

Lack of Confidence
If all those key roles have been initiated, and in the right order, they will automatically lead to the manager being able to do the following:

a. Define individual responsibilities clearly, so that each team member knows exactly how he/she links into the chain of activities;
b. Delegate appropriate and challenging tasks;
c. Monitor the targets set;
d. Provide praise, encouragement and support in the form of regular feedback and, above all,
e. Take full responsibility for staff actions and future outcomes.

Many managers tend to fall foul of the last requirement because of their own lack of confidence and interpersonal skills in dealing with people. They might readily acknowledge that the buck stops with them, but they actually expect their staff to carry the can and take full responsibility for errors, cock-ups and misinterpretations. The performance of the team is the leader's responsibility and when something goes wrong it is invariably due to poor communication, low motivation, or a loss of respect for the person in charge. Either way, it falls squarely on the manager's shoulders. The good leader shields and protects colleagues, while helping them to develop so they are fully aware of what is expected.

When managers expose their team members’ weaknesses or inadequacies, yet deliberately take the credit for their successes, that is the biggest indication of their own lack of understanding of the management role and their inability to lead. They are actually relinquishing responsibility because of their insecurities and ineptitude. They cannot deal with the problems appropriately so they expect their subordinates to bear the brunt of the consequences. Yet, if the communication had not been faulty or ambiguous, there would be fewer setbacks. Close monitoring of staff would have revealed early trends in the interpretation of the instructions or suggestions and in the execution of the given tasks.

Monitoring Results
In a nutshel, the best managers value their staff and communicate well. This does not mean sending tons of paper or emails around to read, but actually giving clear comments or instructions, simply and briefly, to ensure everyone understands what's expected of them. Once a communication is given, the end result needs to be monitored. If a response from a member of the team is due at some time in the future, it has to be followed up until delivered. It is a lack of monitoring activities which leads to the worst problems for team leaders; a situation likely to be blamed on lack of time because leaders themselves are busy.

But the greatest fallacy around leadership is that when you are in charge of a team you have to work terribly hard to set an example to others. In fact, if you are too busy you are not doing your job properly. A competent manager delegates tasks and leaves his or her team to get on with them. The primary job for the manager at all times is to be there for the staff, to concentrate on their needs; to be available to answer queries, to check progress, to advise and encourage, to deflect inappropriate action and to assist where needed. If the manager focuses on the team, her/his guidance will ensure they do 150% because consistent positive attention to their needs and problems will boost their feeling of value and motivation.

To every single colleague, the team leader is the most important person. The one they wish to please and impress. When the team is neglected because the manager is ‘too busy’ the results become all too apparent in unexpected negative outcomes and low productivity. Everyone likes to feel appreciated and recognised for a job well done and the lowest morale is often created by this lack of attention and recognition from managers. This is because they tend to stress the negative, critical aspects of their workforce instead of the positives, which end up undermining or diminishing genuine team effort. In such situations, it is difficult for collagues to remain loyal or to focus on desired outcomes.

ELAINE SIHERA (Ms Cyprah - and ) is an expert author, public speaker, media contributor and columnist. The first Black graduate of the OU and a post-graduate of Cambridge University. Elaine is a CONFIDENCE guru and a consultant for Diversity Management, Personal Empowerment and Relationships. Author of: 10 Easy Steps to Growing Older Disgracefully; 10 Easy Steps to Finding Your Ideal Soulmate!; Money, Sex & Compromise and Managing the Diversity Maze, among others (available on as well as her personal website). Also the founder of the British Diversity Awards and the Windrush Men and Women of the Year Achievement Awards. She describes herself as, “Fit, Fabulous, Over-fifty and Ready to Fly!"


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