The principles of management

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Are managers in South Africa, managing or pushing paper?

A manager is someone who is responsible for the control of a team or an organisation. A huge chunk of this role includes being able to coach and mentor staff, equipping them to achieve company objectives as well as their staff’s own personal growth goals.  It seems that the true role of the manager has become diluted with mounds of paperwork resulting from extensive reporting functions. One cannot help but ask if the captains of industry are inspiring a breed of managers who are actually paper pushers – seeing that we place more emphasis on the accuracy of reporting, and not enough on the core principles of management. Many have forgotten the true role of leadership and management.

Managers are meant to do just that – manage. They are employed into management positions so they can manage a process, which is directed through a team, with a specified goal as the desired outcome. The manager of 2013 likely operates more as a paper pusher, chasing progress reports, completing analysis reports, showing the connection from one report to the other, and constantly chasing numbers - on paper.

A paper-pushing manager has perfected the skill of record keeping, based on the premise that everything which has been recorded by the employee has been recorded factually. However, the process of this level of record keeping is wherein the challenge lies. The manager whose eye is not on his workforce is the manager who is pushing paper at the cost of valuable engagement with his team. This manager is not creating much value for his team or his organisation and this in turn, will negatively impact the company’s bottom line.

The creation of value can often be confused with counting value. The measurement of value should be placed on finding ways of enabling staff to perform tasks efficiently.  Counting value will often result in the interruption of the flow of work to complete heaps of paperwork and reports and give updates to senior leadership on team progress. A task that would usually take an individual an hour to complete now becomes a two hour process, with half an hour required before and after the task, to log its start and completion and any other additional notes which may be required.  The impact of such admin-intense processes are felt so much more in the mining and manufacturing sectors with the workflow being greatly interrupted.

The issue of staff morale is also cause for consideration.  An engaged and motivated workforce results in a productive environment.  It is the role of the manager to uplift, motivate and inspire the team.  However, the inability to find effective ways to engage staff will result in a decline in staff morale. A mumbling and disgruntled workforce affects your bottom line negatively. The effects of a disengaged, stressed and unfulfilled workforce are far reaching, cutting into profits, and impacting stakeholder and client relationships. A manager with his eye on his workforce who coaches and mentors his team members is able to identify these dips in morale, and can find ways of keeping the lines of communication open, resulting in a more engaged workforce.

Although it should not be the core focus of a manager’s role, record keeping still has its place. There are many processes that need to be recorded, and this process can still serve to keep staff on the right path.  However, staff productivity levels need to be managed too, not just recorded.  Their output needs to be regulated, and their energy must be channelled in the right direction. 

Office processes are admin-intense and on paper, provides managers with a certain level of detail which reflects that employees have actually performed their tasks for the day however, these managerial tasks take up more time in the work day than is actually necessary, thus robbing employees of valuable mentorship and coaching time with their line managers. It is evident that what is actually missing in the local context are leaders – individuals who are focussed purely on the growth of their teams. Leaders lean into their ability to influence their teams; they motivate their teams and empower them with the knowledge and skills to do what they are employed to do, better and faster. They inspire from a place of power, instead of exerting power from a place of perceived control.

Leaders inspire through imparting vision. They share their vision with their team in a compelling way, to motivate them and to show them the possibilities of a future under positive circumstances, and then they lead them into achieving the goals which the vision outlines. When managers move from talking about weekly plans, and start speaking to vision and growth plans, the business will move in the direction. Leaders create value by bringing innovation to their work. 


10 tips on effective people management

Life is a juggling act, and working women need to be extra nimble and dexterous to face the challenges of managing at home and in the workplace. Here are a few pointers on how to become an effective manager.

1.     Manage your time well

Time management is about getting all your daily duties completed in a reasonable amount of time. Set daily goals for yourself for both your work and home life that allow you to enjoy a sense of accomplishment. Don't set goals that will be impossible to reach. If it's your goal to finish a business proposal, make it your top priority during the workday. If you're determined to finally wrap all your holiday gifts, make that your evening's primary task. 

 2.     Acknowledge the positive

See the positives in your staff and their work. Positivity breeds positivity. Genuine and meaningful praise goes a long way. If this is difficult for you, get in the habit of noting down positive things you notice about your staff. Give positive feedback regularly and let them know that you see the good work they do.

3.     Lead  by example

Leaders are often the people most watched. Give your staff reason to believe in you by maintaining a professional though approachable stance at all times. 

4.     Be self-aware

This point is an often overlooked one by most people in senior managerial roles.  It is important to always be aware of your emotions and to manage them accordingly. If you’re going through a difficult time, be sure to not let it affect how you treat your staff. Managing your emotions well in the workplace not only affects those around you, it also demonstrates a level of maturity in the manager.

5.     Bring an element of fun into the office

While it is important to maintain a level of professionalism, it doesn’t help anyone if you shut yourself off from your team members and refuse to engage with them personally.  You could appear unapproachable and robotic. Be sure to go out for lunches and afternoon drinks when invited to do so. You will be creating a positive work atmosphere and be in a better position to deal with challenges if they arise.   

6.     Get a handle on your administrative tasks by making use of clever technology

Managers often get bogged down with admin-intense duties leaving their teams without strategic counsel and mentorship. Invest in technology that will allow you to coach your team as opposed to spending all your valuable time pushing paper. For example PRP Solutions has invented a tool which enables managers to spend more time managing people by automating all administrative tasks such as timesheet reporting and salaries.  It provides reporting in real time which can be accessed from any device whether a smart phone or a desktop computer, freeing you up to concentrate on mentoring your team.   

7.     Forgive easily

You can be sure that as part of their nature, human beings will mess up and fail at some point.  Step in and rectify errors where necessary and be brave enough to admit when you have made a mistake. There is no expectancy from your staff for you to be completely fail-proof.  Most people like someone who takes responsibility for their actions. Never hold grudges as this only hinders individual progress and creates an atmosphere of a lack of trust. 

8.     Don’t be afraid to manage

People appreciate genuine leadership. Practice managing and making the tough decisions. These things get easier with practice but people will appreciate knowing where you stand and any changes they need to make from a staff perspective.

9.     Be humble

Being humble doesn’t mean becoming the office doormat. It means being confident though approachable.  Confidence inspires, attracts, excites and ignites. However, confidence without humility can be dangerous. Many leaders have fallen hard for lack of humility. When we are humble, no experience is beneath us and no colleague is unworthy. Always conduct self-reality checks to maintain a healthy level of humility.

10.  Be supportive of your team

You need to have your team’s back. There is nothing more discouraging or de-motivating than feeling like your manager isn't going to bat for you. Your people need to be insulated from the politics and distractions that could potentially get in the way of their performance. You owe your team members this much.  If they feel you're on their side and you've given them every tool they need to perform adequately, then you will find that they will not want to let you down. In this situation, "having their backs" means protecting and mentoring them if anything goes wrong, supporting them completely, and giving them reassurance.

Kriya Govender


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