On the recent Mother’s day in England, I reflected on how my mum has been incredibly instrumental in helping me develop good character and the right attitude to life (including professionally). This got me thinking of the similarities between Managers and Mothers, and some of the ‘soft’ skills that Managers can learn from the ‘art of mothering’ which could help improve staff morale and overall team efficiency or productivity.
As an aside, this is not suggesting that Managers take on a ‘motherly’ role within the team (that will be laughable) nor is it intended to gender discriminate. The focus is on the skills being referenced as these apply to Managers irrespective of their gender.
I thought of these three ‘soft’ skills:
1. Genuine care for people
Homes are usually made up of individuals which often times have very varying personalities; each with their own likes, dislikes and way of doing things. It, therefore, takes skills to balance the need to pay attention to each individual so they feel like a part of ‘the whole’ (i.e., family) vs. finding and promoting the common things that can be done by the whole to ensure it stays together and strong. Most times, the heart of achieving this tricky balance lies in each individual knowing they are genuinely cared for, having a common vision and trusting one another for the support they need to be them whilst being ‘us’.
The same goes for teams and good Managers are those that know how to create this balance; not by command-and-control but by showing genuine interest in what concerns the team members thereby winning their trust and support towards achieving team goals.
2. Being organised
Joggling the needs and activities of a home is similar, if not more complicated, to the day-to-day responsibilities of a Manager. There is a lot to get your head around; from Mark’s piano lessons, Sarah’s football game, to David’s sleepover at his best friend’s place which is over 30minutes drive to going grocery shopping, making dinner and ensuring the credit card bill gets paid on time. Pphhheeewww…it must take really good organisation and coordination skills to ensure all that needs to be done daily gets done!
Certainly, anything can go wrong or spring up that changes everything you planned to do today. But when a Manager is not being organised, their day-to-day management style is reactive (instead of being active) and should an unexpected situation arise, everything becomes chaotic.
3. Bridging the gap between Business and People
For most people, their mum was their first cheerleader; recognising their uniqueness, nurturing their individual skills and providing necessary support to them in whatever they have chosen to do! Mum’s tend to help you make sense of who you are, your role within the family (immediate and extended) and how you fit into the universe. Seeing as ‘businesses’ i.e., corporate can be quite detached from the real situation on the shop floor, it is crucial for Managers to be able to bridge this gap – in a manner that nurtures (not micromanage) individual talents within their team!
The emphasis here is not only on the actions a Manager takes to bridge the gap between Employee expectations and the Business but also on the manner in which the Manager executes his/her duties. The common, yet little understood, word used in describing all of this is Communication. Managers must become aware that team members hear what is said and will make up stories or fill in the gaps for things that are not said. They equally see what is done and that which ought to but is left undone.
Managers, therefore, need to know how to ‘sing the praises’ of their team members not competing with them, accurately interpret company goals and provide clear directions on how they apply to the team, and leading the way to achieve the set goals by example. Communication must be kept two-way, open, consistent and relevant at all times.
According to a popular saying, “employees do not leave companies, they leave bad managers”. So, what makes a ‘good’ Manager? I say it’s the practice and mastery of those ‘soft’ skills which help to build individuals in the team whilst fostering collective team growth and effectiveness. What say you?