How to be a better manager?


How to be a better manager?

I am quite an authority on this topic. You see, I have been a bad manager more often than I have been a good one. And I am on a quest to find what makes better managers. [ Day 30 of #OneDayOneBlog ]

Can there be a better Manager than Fury who has to manage a team of Super Heroes? 🙂

One of the core organizational issues is managing your people in an effective manner. Most of the time managers are ill equipped to do this well and it is not really fair to blame the manager alone for this.

More often than not a person “graduates” into the role of a manager because he or she has performed well in an individual capacity. Sometimes the reason for the promotion is that she or he has been in the company for a long while. Tragic but true.

Except for a few workshops here and there, there are no systems in place where the “manager” is trained to don this particular hat.If they are fortunate, they would have had one or two really good managers and imbibed some valuable lessons from them.

The MBA and the Manager

One other misconception is that if one has completed their MBA, they are automatically equipped to be good managers. As far as misconceptions go, this one takes the cake. The poor MBA grad is sure equipped with tools that will help him to do a market research or know enough gyaan to do a decent job as an analyst but one or two papers in organizational behavior hardly makes his able to lead a group of people.

After the MBA grad joins at an entry level, they continue training him in his trade but there is hardly ever an effective mechanism in place to train anyone to manage people.

If anything, the DNA of most B-Schools is to cultivate an attitude of cut-throat aggressiveness, which is counter productive for anyone trying to work with a team or lead a team.

An effective solution for this comes from the African Philosophy called Ubuntu.

What is Ubuntu?

As with anyone who has any association with an IT startup, I too thought of Ubuntu as the open source operating system.

A passing curiosity on the name led to me to discover more about this wonderful philosophy. In that search I also discovered this wonderful book called “Ubuntu” written by Stephen Lundin and Bob Nelson. When I went back to the book again recently, I realized how this philosophy gives us great insights on working as a team; more specifically to be a better manager This is a powerful story of collaboration that has the power to reshape our workplaces.

1. Respect

Take a moment and look back at your school or college. There must be one teacher whom you really disliked. Why did you have such a strong emotion towards that person? Chances are that he or she may have ridiculed you in front of your classmates for some silly reason like not answering the question or forgetting your assignment. But even at that young age, it hurt your self respect.

At the workplace, all the people present are grown up individuals. How do you think they would feel if they are not treated with dignity and respect?

One of the fundamental principles of Ubuntu is recognizing the equality and value of each person.

Ubuntu does not ask you to respect bad work. But you should always respect the person who does the work. Criticize the quality of work, never disrespect the person.

Let me ask you a question — how do you treat the cleaning staff in your office? If there is someone who delivers tea at your office, do you say Thank you? Or are such formalities reserved for the white collar personnel?

If you truly wish to imbibe the quality of respecting other individuals, start by observing how you treat people who hold these jobs.

2. Feedback

This is another lesson which I wish we were taught effectively in colleges. As managers, there is an incredible amount of responsibility on our shoulders to give continuous feedback to your team. There are two types of feedback here:

  • Type 1: The real time feedback which we share on a daily basis as we work through a particular task.
  • Type 2: The periodic feedback where we sit across the table and have a one-to-one discussion

As managers, we believe that we are doing an excellent job in Type 1. Let me assure you that you are doing a rubbish job — perhaps unintentionally but nonetheless it still is rubbish. The idea here is that you give quick feedback on job well done or correct the course when the person is doing something wrong. Instead, what often happens is that the good job is taken for granted and bad job results in being yelled at in front of the entire team. You may not even be reprimanding the individual, you may just be stressed but your body language communicates censure.

Where Type 2 is concerned, most of the managers do it under duress — when the HR team threatens to hold back bonus. If you genuinely want your team members to grow and succeed then you have to give them this type of feedback at least once in a quarter; not just once in a year.

Why is it important that everyone in your team succeeds? Because that is the true measure of you as a manager.

People really do matter. If you take good care of your employees, they will take great care of your customers.

Feedback for the manager

When your team member is doing very badly, it is easy to put the blame on the person. But next time you may want to ask this question

“How have I failed you?”

I admit I too have never done it in this manner. But perhaps we all should think on these lines. Because this is not a blame game or power play.

The function of a true feedback mechanism is to grow without disrespecting any individual

3. Community

The Spirit of Ubuntu is captured by the word “community”, from the book Ubuntu

On the one hand you hear rhetoric from the leaders that “I” is not important but the “we” of the team matters the most. And then you have a reward mechanism which compels the appraiser to use a forced rating. As an employee you would only be interested in ensuring that you don’t fall into the lowest 10% bracket, right? Why would you spend time to help the other guy come up the curve? So that you get pushed down? No, Thank You.

How do we go about changing it to reflect the spirit of Ubuntu?

As discussed, respect for the individual and feedback mechanism for building trust are the stepping stones. Without this trust and respect, whatever motivational tactic you use will only come across as manipulation.

Why is the sense of community so important in a workplace?

Yesterday I met a very respected academician. She told me how her students who visit college after a few years complain about the stress and a general state of unhappiness. This is nothing unique these days. People are burning out faster.

When this is such a prevalent problem, why is the corporate world not looking at it with more seriousness?

If you want productivity to increase, you need happier people at your workplace. The solution is not in perks given as bonuses or a trip to Thailand. What you need is a community where people are treated as equals and they come to one another’s assistance.

As someone who leads a team, a manager represents the smallest unit of a company. You can be the harbinger of change by building a model team. It will definitely be a challenge if you are part of a large organization which is not aligned with your thought. But try it with your team. Once you start off the effort, you will find more and more resources being made available to you to achieve this goal!

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Friends, this is the Day 30 of my odyssey to write one blog EVERY DAY for the month of May 2017. “One Day, One Blog

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Ruby Peethambaran

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Ruby Peethambaran


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I have enjoyed reading and writing ever since I could read and write. I have been told that my words inspire and help people. That gives me the courage to write more.
If my words help you in any way to better your life, I will consider that a blessing.