Careers Advice: Tips on being an effective manager

Marilyn Smith

You may manage a team of 2, or you may manage a team of 200. All in one location, or in diverse workstations. Whatever the number of people to manage, or wherever they are based, your role as a manager is to make sure that, between them, they achieve the objectives that you set. Everyone has a different style of management, but the key is to be effective, to bring out the best in people.

  • Always remember that you are the manager. You are responsible for all your team. You cannot have favourites, or ‘best friends’. You must treat everyone equally, and everyone must know this. This is even more important if you have risen through the ranks.

  • You should always remain a slight enigma. As manager you will undoubtedly have information, either on work tasks or personnel information, that cannot be passed on, so never allow yourself to be in a position where your impartiality may be questioned. As a manager you have to stay slightly apart from the team, as you will be in a position where you have to chastise and criticize on occasion.

  • You are the face of the team. Always behave with decorum, and do not lose self control in front of the team. It sounds obvious, but the nature of planning is that there will be frustrations in the course of your work. Walk away after that awkward phone call or meeting, and vent your frustration privately. The manager is the role model for the team, and their behavior reflects on the team.

  • Do not fall into the trap of wanting everything done exactly your way, spending hours re-writing reports to your exacting standards. Your role is to manage the work, not undermine individuals’ confidence. Your team will lose respect, and you will put yourself under immense time pressures, and lose sight of the ultimate goal for the team.

  • Be honest. If someone is struggling, sit down with them and be straight. Re-doing their work because it is less challenging than the face-to-face conversation is not a sustainable way of working for you as a manager, or for them as the planner.  

  • Regular one-to-one sessions with clear signals are essential – don’t allow any resentment to fester (on both sides). If someone isn’t quite cutting it, find out why. There may be issues outside work, or it may be that they don’t quite understand what their role is. Make sure that everyone knows what is expected of them, and knows the timetables for their work. Make sure that the team know they can talk to you, without reproach, if they are struggling. A good manager will bring out the best in people, and have no need for the rod.

  • As the manager, you receive praise for the teams’ work, but you must also shoulder criticism. A good manager will soak up the criticism, but then return to constructively discuss this with the team, and individuals, so they are aware of the failings of the team and how to redress the balance for the future.

  • Make sure that you praise and reward good work and good initiative. In many planning authorities there isn’t the opportunity for financial reward, but there are many ways to show the team members how they are valued. Give the individuals their own business cards, share around attendance at award ceremonies and training sessions, mentor them for more challenging work and publicise their achievements.

The effective manager has the team working to the best of their ability to achieve the required results, with minimum of fuss.

Marilyn Smith is planning decisions manager at Barking & Dagenham Council

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