We often hear the phrase – “If you can’t do, teach.” But does the same apply – “If you can’t do, manage?”  This is hard to answer. There are obviously a lot of brilliant managers in the world, effective and efficient in their jobs, but there are also a lot of not so good and outright bad managers.

We have to consider how someone becomes a manager. There are many different ways.

How to some people get to be managers?

  • They may work their way up, starting at the bottom, learning the job as they go along, perhaps undertaking more training, until finally they become a manager.
  • They may have worked their way up in another job and come in straight away as a manager.
  • They may have taken a course or degree and come straight into a business at manager level.
  • They may be given the role as part of their relationship with a business. For example, if it is a family run business, they may be given a manager’s job because they belong to the family.
  • They may become a manager because the business is only very small and they are the most senior person.
    And so on. There are probably many many more permutations of this, but these are just examples.  But however a person comes into their management position, it does not mean that they will necessarily be good managers.

The problem with most bad managers is that they don’t know they are bad. They may well admit that they are a bit messy when it comes to house cleaning, and they are sometimes late to appointments; but it is rare that they will recognise that they are ineffective as a manager.

Case Study - Jill is a manager of a bank.  She does not stay in any job long – a maximum of two years – he has developed a reputation as a bit of a trouble shooter.  She comes into businesses and turns around their organization, then leaves. She has done this for twenty years now and has developed a good reputation doing this.  She is close to the end of her time with the bank and joins a financial sector firm. She is appointed office manager. She spends time with the staff and directors. She learns where the problem areas of the firm are and puts new procedures into place. She finds out who the problem staff are. She arranges for them to receive training or reallocation and in some cases, they have their contract terminated. She employs new staff where required. The directors think she is a wonder woman. The staff find her abrasive and disinterested in their work. She does not know much about the specialist areas of their work and gives them general advice or instructions.  After two years, the country is in an economic recession and she is not able to find other suitable employment, so continues to work in the firm.  She finds this harder and harder.
She has been with the firm two years, but has not learned much about the actual running of the firm, what they do and so on. She has focused on “managing” the firm. She delegates everything she is not sure how to do to different members of staff. At the beginning, the directors thought she was a good delegator, but now have come to recognize that she is delegating work, because she does not know how to do it. Various directors have asked her for help with projects, which she then passes to staff members, but claims credit for. The staff are becoming more and more disgruntled. They complain to directors often. Several formal complaints have been made about Jill and her bad attitude. The directors are not happy with her performance.

Jill becomes stressed and worried. She is embarrassed to ask staff to tell her about things now, as she has been there so long, she should know. She starts to take a lot of days off sick. She used to work long hours, now she starts at 9 and leaves at 5 on the dot. She is not willing to help out when things are busy in the office.

The difficulty here is that Jill is a very good trouble shooter. She is good at coming in, stirring things up, seeing what problems are and changing them, then she leaves and starts again. Those are her skills. She is not necessarily a long term manager. She has not learned about the work they actually do in the firm. She does not know how to carry out certain tasks or use their computer system or advise staff on difficult problems. She has focused on “managing” not on learning to be a manager of that particular firm. 

Her skills are useful, but as a long term manager she is not effective for that role.  As with any job, some people are skilled in some areas, but not so skilled in others.

But often bad managers will not recognize that there is a problem.

Bad management can occur for a range of reasons, but let us focus on six important ones: -

  • Lack of Knowledge
  • Disorganisation
  • Poor time management
  • Not leading by example
  • Too much delegation
  • Poor thinking patterns and lack of focus

Do You Need to Study?
It isn't always necessary to study a course in order to become a manager; but a good manager is a learner. Managers need to learn through experience, and sometimes other ways too, such as taking courses, reading books and networking with colleagues. If you are open to learning; your management skills develop and improve over time.

Reading a book or starting a course can sometimes be a good first step.