Plan,Provide, Protect: The Role of The Modern Manager

Australian employees work best when they feel involved, rather than dictated to. They also want to be told the reasons behind decisions – which can create interesting challenges for managers. So how do you keep up with the times and be the best manager possible? Story by Tony Rowe.

It is essential that 21st century managers recognise the need to move away from the “command and control” style whenever possible.

The modern manager has a varied and sometimes difficult role to play as a planner, provider and protector. They must be a communicator, collaborator, motivator and facilitator. They need to be mother, father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt and grandparent to those in their “care”. They also need to embrace the more open style of leadership that marks the 21st Century.

Stuck in the 20th Century
The command and control style of management is woefully out of date. However, it’s still used when business owners or managers find themselves inadequately prepared for the tasks confronting them.

With all the best intentions in the world, owners and managers sometimes resort to a defensive style of leadership when confronted by situations for which they have little knowledge or experience in dealing with. This response, whilst explainable, is not really acceptable in the 21st Century; where the knowledge of those being led, can sometimes be more extensive than those doing the leading.

The ability to adapt and capitalise on the knowledge and skills of those being led, and to utilise this depth of expertise within the team, is as important a skill now as it ever was.

The great leaders of the past and present – and there are many – are deemed to be great leaders because of their capacity to recognise the various talents of the members of their “teams”; to be able to harness the energy and enthusiasm of those in their charge; to extract optimum performance from all at the critical time; and to ensure those who achieved were rewarded for their efforts.

Many businesses neglect to provide people-management training opportunities for those they entrust to these positions. Management is a skill set that I believe can be taught. It isn’t necessarily an easy task and each person needs to be able to adopt a style of their own. It is, however, essential that 21st century managers recognise the need to move away from the “command and control” style whenever possible.

What makes a good leader?
Great small business owners and managers challenge any existing complacency, and are prepared to lead their teams forward. They’re the ones who recognise problems, seize opportunities, and create the future of their business. Ultimately, they’re the ones who stop to think where they want to go and then have the “intestinal fortitude” to set out to achieve that vision, or those goals.

Challenging people to achieve more than they thought was possible starts with management. Managers must possess clear self-awareness and self-management before they can influence others effectively.

Imagine a General going into battle without a strategic plan in place and all the required resources allocated to that task! Imagine a coach of a team going into a grand final without a strategy to win the game! They would look foolish in the eyes of their armies or teams, and would soon lose the confidence of their masters, if that were the case.

The small business owner or manager has three major roles to play. These roles are the same for a General in the army, the coach of a sporting team or the owner or manager of a Real Estate office.

The business owner or manager needs to have a long-term vision of where the business is headed: indeed, the higher you rise, the further you will have to look.

While team members (sales, property management, administration) will be working towards set goals, the business owner or manager must look further ahead so that the goals are selected wisely for the long term future of the business.

By determining possible consequences of different plans, the business owner or manager chooses the goals to be achieved and sets about implementing the plan. Day-by-day strategising is not a good option because the planning and necessary resources may not be allocated in time.

The business owner or manager has access to information and materials that the team needs. They have the authority and influence to acquire things that no one else in the team could. This is a vital role simply because no one else can do that job: there is authority held here which is unique within the team. The business owner or manager must exercise this authority wisely to ensure the team works efficiently and effectively

The team needs security. In any business enterprise, there are short-term events that can distract the team from remaining focused on their ultimate goals. The business owner or manager has to be the guard: protecting the team from unnecessary distractions. If someone in the team has a problem at work, you have to deal with it – sensitively, of course – but with a constant eye on the potential impact such a diversion can cause.
The task of management deals with visualising a path to achieving the goals that have been set in practical, feasible steps. This task is about being intimate with the work target and setting the priorities. It’s a task that can be delegated, but the leader has to remain engaged to ensure the stated priorities and goals are being implemented.

Success Tips for Managers

  • Meet with each individual privately and ask if they have any issues or concerns. Know what excites and motivates them.
  • The task is to be focused on earning people’s respect, not on becoming everyone’s friend.
  • Be yourself: if you expect people to be trust you, you have to be trustworthy.
  • Be honest about what you know and don’t know, and be prepared to learn more.
  • Be willing to listen to and value others’ opinions.
  • Treat everyone the same.
  • Resist the urge to share information inappropriately.
  • Be understanding of individual needs, issues and concerns.

It’s important for all small business owners and managers to be able to articulate their vision and mission to the members of their staff and gain their team’s buy-in. The best manager is nothing if the team is not supporting the ultimate vision and mission of the organisation. This “disconnect” will be disastrous for the business and a “separation” would need to be made.

Understanding the implications of decisions that are made and the consequences of those decisions is why the person is in that position of leadership. Being able to recognise shortcomings in others is important. Being able to provide opportunities for improvement to address those shortcomings is equally important. The same is also true for managers and owners of small businesses. It’s critical to the success of the business operation that you recognise your own shortcomings and upskill accordingly.

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Tony Rowe

Tony Rowe is the CEO of TT Rowe and Co, a compliance, education and training consultancy providing specialist advice to the property industry in Australia.