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Fundamental aspects of management

When you become a manager there are many sources of learning to help you develop your leadership style. Explore fundamental aspects of management.
A diverse group of five people having a conversation in an office
© CIPD

When you first become a manager there are many sources of learning to help you develop your leadership style. In this article we will explore some of the fundamental aspects of management.

Getting started

When you start out in people management you may wish to think about your past managers and how they have influenced you. You can learn a lot about how not to be a manager from any terrible managers you have had and clearly you can learn a lot from the good ones too!

What did you like or not like about their style? Why did their style work or not work for you? Can you speak to someone else who was managed by the same person? Did they experience the manager differently than you?

It can be good to think about a manager’s influence on you in the past because, as a manager yourself, you too will influence others.

Thinking about context

People sometimes move into management, develop a style and then stick to it. However, when you become a manager you will manage a wide variety of people and one size will not necessarily fit all. Everyone is unique and will respond to you differently and therefore, you will need to use a variety of management styles to suit different situations and employees.

Think back to those good and bad managers – why were they good for some people but bad for others? A manager needs to flex and adapt to the needs of those around them. A poor manager may forget this and treat everyone the same way. Your job as a manager is to understand what your individual employees need from you.

Context will have an important role to play in this. Under what circumstances and in which setting are you managing people? Is it a project, a team, a group of volunteers? Understanding your context, and how it affects the people around you (and you, yourself) is essential.

Fortunately, there are many resources to support you as you think about different management styles and how they may suit different people. Let’s explore some of these ideas.

Listening

It can feel daunting to manage everyone as they need to be managed – how will you know who needs what and when? The key to successful management lies in personal relationships.

Good managers spend time getting to know people. You may find that developing your listening skills will help with this. The work of Nancy Kline talks about the value of listening well. We are taught from a young age that conversation is a two-way street. Yet, often we learn to listen only in order to interrupt – we interject with our own thoughts or comments. In reality, this is not listening, it is influencing.

Good managers really listen. They allow their team to be heard, to reflect, and to think. Poor managers will often decide if an idea is good or bad without listening to it all the way through. They will often judge an idea by their own experiences and interrupt the flow of thinking from the speaker.

When developing your people management skills, try really listening. Ask a speaker “what more do you have to say about that”, rather than offering your own opinion.

Storytelling

As well as listening, new managers should think about the role of storytelling in their teams.
Julian Stodd offers a leadership model for modern times with his NET theory. The theory suggests that narrative, engagement and technology are the three dimensions of social leadership. Social leaders use these dimensions to bring people together and create both shared understanding and purpose.
The concept of getting your team behind you through a great story is nothing at all new – we have been telling stories since time began. However the NET model describes the context within which today’s stories are told.
For example, we operate in a technology-enabled world, and as such we should embrace that context. As managers we should no longer hold onto knowledge, rather use technology to share and co-create together. In this way we will better engage our teams.
This is quite a new concept in management. In the past knowledge has meant power. Through storytelling and sharing managers are shifting from a traditional hierarchy and structure to one where the focus is on people and their work.
Think about your own team. How could you use storytelling and narrative to engage your team? Does technology help you to share and co-create knowledge?
Take a moment to consider these aspects of management. Think about the context of your team and your organisation. Reflect on how well you listen to your team and where you could improve. Finally, how could storytelling contribute to your team dynamic?
© CIPD
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