So you want to be a manager?

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By Rudi Nieuwoudt

If I were asked to choose the most challenging task I've had to face throughout my entire working career I would have to say that effectively managing a team of people would be at the top. Management would be easy if everyone you managed were hard working, collaborative, and had a great attitude and exceptional talent. Unfortunately, this is not the case and to make things worse, many employees carry with them the ghosts of previous managers which places you in the position of having to prove yourself from the get go.

Every project you as a future manager will be involved in will be different. Not only in the form of workload and project dynamics but different cultures, different levels of experience and different personalities. Because of all these variables there is no "one size fits all" plan that you can implement for each project. There are, however, five aspects that in my experience are non-negotiable and must form part of your management strategy.

Be direct.

The shortest route from A to B is a straight line. Being direct does not need to mean being cold and hard. The tone you use and the words you choose matter a lot.You will likely get more respect for being direct than by overthinking the positioning of a message or meeting.
Worried about diplomacy? Diplomacy is a great virtue but so is clarity, and diplomacy without clarity is just undiplomatic B.S. Have the courage to be direct.

Be Honest.

There may be no more important action for building trust in an organization than the honest interaction between managers and employees.
It may not be enough for you to simply tell the truth when challenged or to turn in accurate performance reports. To be known for your honesty, you may need to demonstrate more personal courage; you may need to create an environment that is more open and transparent; or you may need to build a stronger sense of teamwork and cooperation. Honesty is a leader’s most valued and valuable leadership quality because it is the gateway towards trust and inspiration.

Deal with conflict head on.

Conflict is something you WILL encounter and you need to tackle it head on and swiftly. The worst thing a manager can do is to try and avoid conflict. There are, however, a few things you can do to try and prevent conflict at the workplace.

- Clearly define acceptable behaviour.

You know what they say about assumingJust having a definition for what constitutes acceptable behaviour is a positive step in preventing conflict.

- Know why the conflict occurred.

As a manager, understanding the employee's WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) position is critical. It is absolutely essential to understand why the conflict occurred prior to intervening. The way to avoid conflict is to help those around you achieve their goals. If you approach conflict from the perspective of taking action that will help others achieve their goals, you will find few obstacles will stand in your way when it comes to resolving conflict.

Never expect things from your team that you yourself won't do.

I've seen it so many times... Managers implementing ridiculous schedules, procedures, requirements without consulting the team and then sitting back cracking the whip, watching the employees scurrying around trying to get everything done. I have a rule that I live by which is... I will not enforce any new rules/requirements if I would not be willing to follow them myself. I also discuss and explain why these changes are being made and welcome any ideas that could streamline the process and benefit everyone.

Praise when deserved.

A pat on the back really is like 6 months of therapy. Praise and recognition are essential to an outstanding workplace. Even the most reserved employees want to know when they've done a great job. A strong manager will be a cheerleader for their team and go above and beyond to recognize these milestones. With so much stress in our daily work lives it's more important than ever to stop and celebrate the wins along the way. It feels good and shows your team you care about their success.

If you were to go out and ask “what are the qualities of a good manager,” you will probably end up with a list of over 50 qualities. Not only will you have so many, but they will also be quite contradictory to one another. Why? Because as I've stated earlier, it depends on so many factors, and is different for every project. The 5 that I have discussed here are the ones that (in my humble opinion) are non-negotiable and will give you a solid foundation to start with.