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What does 'good' look like in Management?

This summer, I took myself off for a luxury riding holiday learning dressage from the masters – the amazing Grand Prix Lusitano dressage horses in Portugal.

Now, I've been riding horses for over 40 years and have had a fair few instructors in my time - mostly good and some not so good. However, in recent years, the cost of owning and caring for my own horses has meant that I have had to unfortunately dispense with the need for a pricey instructor. I simply don't have the time or money to indulge myself in such a luxury.

But, you know what, I’m a very experienced rider as I've been riding for 40 years, and my horse still goes well, and I don't fall off so much these days so I must be doing it right. Right? Well, not necessarily. It's the same with any skill that you apply – whether in your work or personal life. When you've been practising a skill for a long time you will get to the stage of unconscious competence, the stage of the learning cycle where the skill you learnt becomes second nature, you don't need to think about how to do it any more - it just happens automatically. This is the same whether you are driving a car, riding a bike, riding a horse - and even managing people. However, this stage of unconscious competence can also be a phase of complacency. A stage where the bad habits that you've picked up over the years also become second nature and, without an instructor, mentor or coach to give you feedback and show you what to do instead, these bad habits stay unnoticed with only their consequences manifesting into poor performance.  

But how do you know what 'good' looks like? Most managers tend to copy the style of management used by their own manager. Their personality traits, working preferences and motivational drivers will also all influence how managers relate to and communicate with their direct reports. And those traits and attitudes are deeply ingrained. Most of the time, they are not even aware of them.  

But how do you know if what you are doing is the right way or the best way of managing people? Gaining feedback from your team is a good way of exploring your skill as a manager; but are they being totally honest with you? And, how do they know what a good manager should be like? For some, getting let off home early on a Friday might constitute good management!

The truth is, there is no ‘right’ way of managing people. But there is a lot you can learn about when and how to adapt your own style to improve communications and get the most out of your people. And the only way you can do that is by raising your own awareness of your current style and attitudes and learning when and how to adapt in various situations.  

I've returned from my break in Portugal where I received feedback on my riding from the masters (both equine and human!) and discovered what bad habits I had got into which I wasn’t even aware of. I was given the opportunity to practice my dressage moves and understand what it is I do right and what I need to improve on. I returned thoroughly motivated, totally inspired and with a very clear idea of what 'good' looks like; the old ways I need to dispense with, and what my capabilities, strengths – and limitations - as a rider are.

Undertaking training or coaching in management is equally important. Especially for those who have been managing people for a long time. Gaining insight and learning will help you ensure you know what good management looks like, what bad habits you need to correct and provide you with a plan and the motivation to be an even better manager than you are already.

November 28 2016Karen Fleming

Karen Fleming

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