Mark's Blog

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What Do You Expect of Me? :


Over the years that I have been talking to managers, I have never failed to be surprised at the lack of understanding of a manager’s job. The Wikipedia definition of management is that “Management in all business areas and organizational activities are the acts of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives efficiently and effectively.” In other words, management is about getting results out of the people that work in a company or department.


Now this is where the misunderstanding seems to set in. Typically we “make” managers by inevitably taking the best performer in a department and “promoting” them to management. The next day the newly promoted manager walks in and continues to do exactly the same as the day before, but has now added on to their tasks the signing of leave forms and giving people permission to take half days. In other words the manager is still doing the work! No change!


And this is where our problems with ineffective managers start – we use a “promotion” to management as a reward for good performance. Wrong! Management is a career choice, and just as one has to have certain qualities and abilities to be an accountant, lawyer, mechanic or engineer, so one has to have certain qualities and abilities to be a manager. And being a good performer is just one of them!


In one of my previous articles, I suggested the qualities that a good manager should have, so I won’t go into them again. However, I would like to talk about what a good manager is able to do.


We hire managers and pay them the salaries that we do, so that they can get the required productivity from their staff. That’s the bottom line. Managers are not “doers” they are “get doners”. In order to do this they need to be able to do the following:


1. Recruit the Right people, for the Right reason, at the Right time, for the Right money and for the Right job. How often do we look at the five “Rights” when recruiting people? More often than not we are under such pressure to find a person for the job, that we take the first one that vaguely resembles the person that we are looking for. When that person then starts to work for the company, we find that they were not what we were looking for, but now we are stuck with them. Our draconian labour laws, written in favour of the lazy, make it a mammoth task to try and fire someone. Not to mention the cost! So get it right up front! You’ll spend more time in selecting, but save time in the long run – you’re going to spend the time anyway, either productively, up front finding the right person, or you’ll be spending it after you’ve employed the person, and trying to fix what they have screwed up.


2. Measure and give feedback to your staff on their productivity at least every two weeks. And don’t tell me that you don’t have the time. If that is so, then please resign from management, because as a manager your job is to get productivity from your staff. As a manager you need to have a well designed measurement and reporting tool that will allow you to objectively measure people’s productivity and then to take rapid corrective action if necessary, or to praise where appropriate.


3. Have a strategy to retain performers. Performers perform because of the benefits that they receive as a result of performing. If you treat everyone in your department the same, because you’re scared you may offend someone, all you’ll achieve is angering the most productive people in your department. If you want to keep your performers (which I sincerely hope you do!), then make sure they have an environment that they enjoy working in, and that they reap the benefits of their performance.


4. Know the law. By far the majority of cases that employers lose at the CCMA are lost because the employer was substantively right in taking action against the employee, but they were procedurally wrong! It is an unfortunate fact of life in South Africa that we have these draconian and clumsy labour laws. As a manager you need to know them and know them well! Know and understand the disciplinary process from start finish. Apply the law diligently at all times. This is not HR’s job, it’s yours!


5. Lead your people. This is really simple. John Maxwell says that “leadership is influence”. You need to be able to influence your staff to produce what is required. Not use a big stick or persuasion, but rather that your staff are productive simply because they want to be. How do you know if you are a leader? What is the acid test? Just turn around and see if there are people following you voluntarily. Yes voluntarily is what I said. You can be a leader without being a manager, but you can never be a manager without being a leader. If you don’t have people following you voluntarily, you are doomed to fail as a manager.


Management is not a position of authority or seniority. It is a position of responsibility - responsibility to get your staff to meet the productivity requirements of the company, and a responsibility to create a working environment which people enjoy, and in which they can be productive.


Forget that you got to your position as manager through promotion. See your job as a manager as a career – you are a career manager. Go learn the skills and practice them, so that you can  become really good at getting productivity out of people. That’s after all the measurement that is going to be used to see whether or not you did your job as a manager properly. 



This article is protected by copyright and may not be duplicated or republished in full or in part, without the express written permission of Mark Deavall.  Mark is contactable on or +27 82 465 5481.