What makes a good line manager?

Many women write to Workingmums.co.uk about how poor line management has affected their career progression and recent research suggests workplace culture is the key issue holding women back. A lot of attention has focused recently on the role of line managers in creating office culture.

A new book on management talks about the importance of line managers for boosting retention and performance.

The Magnetic Leader by executive adviser Roberta Chinsky Matuson starts from the premise that employees don’t work for companies, they work for people and that therefore management is all important. She says companies tend to focus on perks to attract and retain employees, but she doubts that these work long term.

What she thinks matters is “making the workplace more human” by concentrating on good leadership and creating a culture which attracts and inspires employees. She says getting leadership right is vital because “one bad leader can have a dramatic negative impact on the entire culture”.

So what marks a good leader? For Matuson, good leaders evolve, investing in their own development and being willing to be open about their failures. They are authentic, selfless, strong communicators, charismatic, resilient, visionary and transparent. They inspire rather than direct and place an emphasis on employee career development and intrapreneurship.

Good and bad managers

Matuson cites  a 2015 Gallup poll showing that the main reason people leave their job is due to a bad boss or line manager. Choosing the right managers is therefore crucial.

She describes what makes a bad manager. Characteristics include a tendency to micromanage, poor communication skills, a lack of passion, lack of feedback or opportunity for employees to progress and making outrageous demands.

Good managers save their company money. They make more difference than expensive employee engagement initiatives, says Matuson, claiming these don’t work in the long term because commitment cannot be bought.

Employees instead value being treated as adults. That means they shouldn’t be punished for completing work more efficiently than co-workers. They are also exhausted and often doing the work of two people, although their performance and pay remain the same. What they need is leadership that recognises the need for work life balance, puts the needs of employees first and builds trust.

Matuson argues that good managers also save money by making the need for traditional recruitment almost redundant because they attract talent through word of mouth and reputation and because they actively scout for talent, including among groups such as women returners.

She adds that it is not the end when employees leave. The exit interview and getting feedback from departing employees is an important learning opportunity.

Matuson says: “If the experience [people have with your organisation] is favourable, they’ll recommend you to others, which is the lowest cost of customer acquisition possible. If the experience is not a happy one, they’ll warn everyone they know never to do business with you, which could result in your company going out of business. You can see clearly how profits are directly tied to leadership, and that your connection to your employees is the beginning of a chain of experiences that directly impacts the bottom line of your organisation.”

For her the main message she wants to get across is that “the way you choose to lead matters more than your intentions”.

*The Magnetic Leader: How Irresistible Leaders Attract Employees, Customers, and Profits is published by Taylor & Francis.

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