14 Management Skills I Learned From Bad, Good And Great Managers

“5 Things You Need to Know About Being a Good Leader”, “What Bad Managers, Good Managers and Great Managers Do”, “Five Things Great Managers Do Every Day” …

How many articles about management have you seen and maybe even read in the last couple of weeks? If you are on Facebook, check LinkedIn, read Business Insider or any other business news platform, you probably have seen lots of these over the last weeks.

Management skills is a hot topic. There is a clear transition happening from the old-school type of managers. From those who yell at you and get aggressive when things don’t go the way they want; to those people call “leaders”, a more friendly version of managers that really focus on your real potential and try to get the best out of you.

Reading all those articles made me reflect on my own career. I had a lot of managers, some of them were bad, some were good and a few were great. When I look at all of them, I can definitely identify both styles. In a way, I learned from all of them, From some, I learned things I could do. From some I learned things I shouldn’t do. All contributed to who I am today and how I manage other people. Let me introduce you to some of them.

  • The married couple who owned a Canon subsidiary in my home town and had their son, who didn’t want to study, working there. Family business is a risk for the family and for the business.
  • The nice guy showing me that we could sell books by knocking on doors at people homes. He was an exceptionally positive person, very persistent and capable of convincing everyone to do an awful job, starting for himself.
  • The Spanish version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: he was a fun guy to work with, at least when things were going well. None of the clients trusted him 100%, but most of them liked him and would buy from him. When things didn’t go well, he transformed himself into that aggressive guy. Screaming, yelling at us and even kicking the whiteboard or the table telling us that we were a piece of shit because we didn’t sell enough for a couple of days.
  • The most unfriendly person I ever didn’t meet: she was my remote manager, I didn’t even meet her face to face and I worked there for more than a year. She was very strict on the phone, very dry person, results oriented. I think she really liked me as a professional, even if she never told me.
  • The guy everyone liked: again, a brief experience just after I moved to The Netherlands. He was a very kind senior man that everyone liked. He could’ve been a great manager but I think working conditions at that company didn’t help him to stay motivated.
  • Taiwanese experience: there is something I learned after my 10 months working for a Taiwanese company: I would think twice (or even ten times) before joining a company from that side of the world again. We called him “God”. His management style was obviously very different to what we are used to here in Europe. He was the one who once told me: “I don’t trust you. But don’t worry, it’s not only you; I don’t trust anyone here. You need to work very hard for at least 2 years to show me that I can start trusting you a bit”.
  • The contagious positive-competitive mentality with the most colorful pants I’ve ever seen. It was fun to work with him. He was an enthusiastic and optimistic person, always willing to help and making the office a great place to work. He was also very competitive, encouraging people to give their best not matter if it was at selling or playing foosball.
  • The one who always said “positive attitude = positive results”. One of the best and most intelligent managers I ever had. He was that kind of person that can connect with you very fast and it makes you feel that you are important to him and the organization. Always willing to listen and help you being successful. He moved to a different role few months later and I always think that I missed an opportunity to learn more from him.
  • The one who was pure passion & energy. It wasn’t easy for him, getting to Europe from the US to lead EMEA and find all those kinds of people, personalities, cultures and ways of working. He was extremely energetic, passionate and competitive. Always wanting to help, sometimes “too energetic” but a guy that lead by example and made you give your best to also help him.
  • The most right wing British and fun person I ever met: he always said “if I get in between you and your job, then I am not doing mine right”. He was a fantastic person who really gave flexibility to his team to achieve results. Also a good listener, he was always keen to help and put his team’s needs in front of his own.
  • The Irish engineer who wanted to work in sales. This was a less than a year experience with a very interesting (in a negative way) guy. He was an engineer that for any reason, wanted to make a switch to his career to become sales manager. He didn’t last much but for everyone it was too much. He lack empathy and couldn’t connect with anyone in his teams.
  • Another (ambitious) Irish guy who wanted to be a VP. When a guy joins the company as a sales director and within a month tells people that he wants to take the VP’s role from the existing one, that’s not a good sign. He basically hired his friends, didn’t respect people working there for years delivering results and he lacked empathy and interpersonal skills. He got to be VP at the end… but he didn’t last as VP that long either.
  • The guy who you couldn’t trust that always told you he had 20 years of experience in anything you were talking about.
  • Version 2.0 of Jekyll and Hide: a nice guy unless he got stressed. Control freak type of person combined with ambitious mentality and no filters. A mix of feelings really, I can be friends with him but I wouldn’t work for him again.
  • The other one most intelligent person I ever worked with: he was my manager in two occasions. The first experience wasn’t that good, he was a bit “too keen” to be a manager. But he learned from it and the second time I reported to him, he really became a great manager that gave me flexibility and trust to make things happen. He was able to understand all aspects of the industry and the business you were working on and his ability to learn was outstanding. Very intelligent person and the one who told me the best things about my skills and potential; giving me the confidence to keep improving and go the extra mile.

I had more managers in my career but those above are probably the ones who I learned the most from, both in a positive and negative way.
What did I learn then?
So many managers, so distinctive styles and personalities. Looking at all of them, it is very clear to me what it requires to be a good leader:

  1. Lead by example: what people see you do will be what they will do.
  2. Listen to people: don’t ask them to do stuff, ask them how they are doing, what challenges are they facing and try to help with your insights and advise.
  3. Make them feel important: they are the core value or your company, they need to feel that way. They need to feel they contribute to the goals of the business and how they do.
  4. Being aggressive doesn’t help anyone.
  5. Choose the right people to work for you. If you recruit well, everything else will be easier.
  6. Trust them 100% (unless they prove you shouldn’t).
  7. Get your hands dirty. Be ready to help at any time.
  8. Learn as much as you can (about the business and your team).
  9. Be positive. Positive attitude = positive results.
  10. Don’t get in between. Give them room to make mistakes, learn and succeed.
  11. Put passion on what you do.
  12. Connect personally with your team. If you can’t connect with them, you can’t lead them.
  13. Filter. Your problems don’t need to be theirs.
  14. Make it fun! Everyone spend a lot of time working, help them to like what they do.

There are a lot of ways to manage or lead a group of people, but if you don’t connect well with them, it won’t work in the long term. Focus on people first and skills later. Skills can be learned. Personality it’s more difficult to be changed.


What other things you think a good leader needs to have? Please leave your comments here!

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