Obviously management is about far more than workflow, prioritising and planning. Being a good manager is primarily about getting the best out of the people working for you. Doing that is half about what you do for them, and half about how you treat them. I think in Western society we’ve been given the view too often from Hollywood and television that a manager has to be a real kick ass, take no prisoners and speak the unadulterated truth kind of guy. Shows like The Apprentice show Donald Trump telling people they’re fired and then there’s Bill Lumbergh in the office that treats all his staff like crap.
I hope that most people realise these are terrible images of how a manager should treat their staff, but I think there are plenty of managers out there that are actually like this. It’s the whole attitude of pushing people down so that you can be seen as the take no prisoners guy and keep climbing. This might work for some people in the beginning, but eventually you are going to have staff that don’t feel so much like putting up with that sort of boss and won’t give their all, which means that said manager all of a sudden doesn’t look so great to their superiors.
One of the best examples I have seen for contrasting management styles is between Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay. Let’s for a moment forget that they are on tv shows and there is a certain amount of editing going on – they still say what they say and act how they act. We are still getting a real idea of what these two men are like. Looking at Hell’s Kitchen I have seen Ramsay both speak and act appallingly to his staff. He is constantly yelling and belittling his staff, I remember he even called one of the chefs a “fat fucking pig”. You can see the results with the contestants – they have a competitive fire, sure, but they don’t enjoy the experience one little bit. There is constant tension between them and it is one of the most hostile environments I have ever seen.
Then I think about Pierre White on Masterchef: The Professionals. His management style could not be more different. His management, like all great great management, is about lifting people up. He seems to be an expert at judging people’s moods and feelings and acts accordingly. When someone is clearly struggling and fragile, he gives just the right words to let them know he sees it, but that they need to keep going. When someone does something really well, the praise is genuine and unrestrained. Most importantly, when someone is cocky and arrogant, he doesn’t cut them down cruelly. He gives just the right feedback to let them know they need to pull their head in.
That is what good management is all about. It’s about knowing the people working for you and knowing what they need from you, and being able to give that to them. It isn’t about using people to get to the top, it’s about pulling them up with you. You can see with Pierre White that the chefs genuinely respect him and want to give their very best all the time. People don’t want to give their best with a belittling manager, they want to achieve whatever goal they have and get the hell out of there as soon as possible.
I’ve heard it said quite a lot that “you don’t need to like your boss, but you do need to respect them”. I think that line of thinking is crap. If most of your staff don’t like you, odds are you’re a pretty lousy manager. I think this comes from the line of thinking that managers are going to have to make unpopular decisions, but are still capable of respect. People understand that managers have to make unpopular decisions, that’s not what makes them unlikeable on a daily basis. It is very difficult to dislike someone that treats you with respect, appreciates you and does their best to give you good feedback. You may not want to hang out with them on the weekend, but on a work level every person should like their manager.