In the beginning of my management career, I strived to always know what to do, what to say, how to act and to be a shining example to others. But the reality I experienced was that I didn’t know it all. In fact, I didn’t know half of the answers.
As a young woman starting out as a Regional Manager with Aldi at the age of twenty two, I felt an enormous responsibility to prove that my age bore no resemblance to my experience or ability. I admittedly made mistakes trying to prove what I did know rather than admitting what I didn’t and then seeking the help I needed from the necessary channels.
As I have progressed through my career with Inchcape I have had the privilege of working with some truly inspiring individuals who have taught me it’s ok to not always have the answer. Admitting my weaknesses and areas of development has allowed my colleagues and peers to see I am human and on a journey of growth exactly the same as them.
I feel it important to recognise here that learning can come in two forms; the first being how to do something well and the second being how to do something badly! These two juxtaposed ideas have taught me in equal measure thus far in my career. In the same way, I have learned far more from my mistakes than I have my successes.
Reading is a passion of mine and I have amassed hundreds of management and self-development books over the years Each book has taught me a new principle or idea but in my opinion the golden key to being a great manager is putting your people first. Rightly or wrongly, in the first instance I am a trusted friend to the people I work with. I know about their families, their children, their private life’s highs or lows and when asked I am an ear to listen. I don’t claim to know every detail but I know what matters and they know the same from me. My colleagues know my moral compass and this enables us to form a relationship founded on trust.
I believe that creating a happy but fair environment to work in lies at the mangers feet. The tone of any business can be found in its leader and this is what creates the culture of its operation. Personally I have found leading by example carries many merits. I will empty the bins, de-litter the car park, do invoicing, make cold calls, hold the fort on reception, valet a car and so on all of which shows that when required, I will step in to be a part of my team and not just at the top of it. There is no task I would ask of someone that I wouldn’t do myself and this breeds respect. I firmly believe that everyone is created equal and as a management quality this carries heavy weighting.
One thing I have most definitely realised over the years is that it is okay to not know the answer or the way forward. Some of best business plans I have enacted have been those that were formed by my management team and I in collaboration with one another. Having the ability to admit that you don’t have all of the answers again earns respect but it also gives your colleagues the chance to bring their ideas to the table and have the autonomy of acting them out. The pride that your team feels knowing that they helped influence change or achieve a result, strengthens the workplace bond even further. It is this bond that makes a truly unbreakable team who then deliver incredible results.
The process of continuous learning is crucial to a good manager. I have found that over the years the subject matter of my role has remained the same but my perspective of how to achieve results successfully has evolved. In the same way you may read a good book a few times over and each time take some new information from it, the years has taught me that the material stays the same but the interpretation changes. Being able to see things from many angles and from different people’s opinions definitely is an attribute of a great manager. It is this understanding which allows differences of opinion to be rectified or challenges from colleagues to be calmed.
Bravery is integral to a great manager. It can be lonely when faced with hard decisions but a great manager is never silent around hard topics or events. It is their job to excavate the unsaid and say what needs to be spoken. The reality is; there never is a finish line. A manager becomes a good manager and then a great manager and then a great leader but they constantly take steps to new territories to learn new things and then the cycle starts again. Continuous learning is addictive. The mind once stretched never returns to its original dimension.
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