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How to be a manager you’d like to work for

Posted on: January 19, 2023

Leadership styles and styles of management are not fixed. They evolve to reflect changing societal values, adapting in the light of new information about how people best operate and what we expect from our teams and workplaces. Recently – particularly against the backdrop of the global pandemic and the rise of remote and hybrid working – organisational culture has begun to prioritise employee welfare and recognise the importance of managers with soft skills. Arguably, the most effective managers place greater focus on pastoral care, are invested in the personal development of others, and seek to embed a culture of empowerment in their teams.

How do they achieve this? What attributes do they possess? How can employees be motivated and fulfilled?

Why is managing people in organisations important?

Human resource management (HRM) focuses on the recruitment, training and directing of a workforce to optimise productivity, organisational levels and professional growth. It contains a significant, important human aspect: inspiring, motivating and supporting team members and direct reports.

Teams working under capable, inclusive, caring managers are more likely to report higher levels of job satisfaction, wellbeing, productivity and motivation. There exists a wealth of evidence demonstrating that the impact of leaders and managers has a profound impact on a team’s ability to work together and work well – after all, a dysfunctional, unhappy team is not a productive one.

Organisations where staff are valued, treated well and report high levels of satisfaction will not only experience greater staff retention and performance, but will likely attract the best talent, find brand perception boosted, gain more customers and make more money.

What are the characteristics of a good manager?

Google’s Project Oxygen, a study into what makes individuals within their organisation so good at managing people, defined the following characteristics and competencies as being some of the most important for a manager to possess:

  • Is a good coach. The management role shouldn’t simply focus on getting a job done, but also developing the team along the way. Coaches support team members to arrive at decisions themselves rather than immediately presenting solutions. Regular one-to-ones and open dialogue and discussion helps create an environment in which coaching and mentoring can thrive.
  • Empowers team and does not micromanage. Team members do not thrive with managers peering over their shoulders, instructing them in every element of their job roles and not trusting them to complete tasks under their own direction. Managers should give team members the freedom to act autonomously, contribute to their job design – where appropriate, and grant them the space they need to do the jobs they were hired for. Empowered teams are also invited to contribute to decision-making and problem-solving exercises; the risk of not doing so is that valuable insights, perspectives and ideas can be overlooked.
  • Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and wellbeing. When you consider that the majority of the week is spent working – for most of us, at least – the quality of working life is thrown into sharp focus. Team members must feel safe, respected and valued if they are to perform and thrive to the best of their ability. Much of this culture is established by a team manager, as well as the ethos and activities of the wider organisation.
  • Is productive and results-oriented. The best managers lead by example and uphold their own performance standards as well as that of their team members. Team meetings and regular, collaborative dialogue can be used to identify and remove blockades to team productivity and establish workable outcomes.
  • Supports career development and discusses performance. Value the long-term career aspirations of team members and acknowledge their improvement and development as learners alongside team performance and deliverables. Managers should spend time establishing where team members see their careers progressing and implement the necessary learning experiences to achieve this – whether this lies within the organisation or without. Managers should be properly trained in performance management to support their teams effectively and in the most optimal ways.

Other aspects include being a good communicator who listens and shares information, having a clear vision/strategy for the team and the team role, possessing key technical skills to help advise the team, collaborating across the organisation, and being a strong decision-maker.

Motivation and its role in people management

Douglas McGregor, a social psychologist, developed two theories regarding the beliefs of managers and how these beliefs could impact management styles: Theory X and Theory Y.

Theory X denotes an authoritarian style, where managers perceive team members to be naturally unmotivated, responsibility-averse and lacking in job satisfaction and initiative. These beliefs generally lead to micro-management, a focus on targets and appraisals, and centralised control. In contrast, Theory Y denotes a participative style. These managers perceive team members to be self-motivated, able to use initiative, and fulfilled by their work. These beliefs lead managers to adopt a collaborative, optimistic view of management, where employees are encouraged to take ownership of their responsibilities, are included in decision-making, and can work competently with less direction. While both styles can be used to motivate teams, managers should identify which approach is more likely to receive a positive response and consider adapting management practices accordingly. Some leaders may find a combination of the two theories works best, but it depends on a variety of factors – one of which is how each individual is motivated.

More than 70% of UK workers want their employers to put more effort into motivating them. Once a manager has established the best motivational methods for their team members, they are plenty of options to choose from:

  • Create a pleasant, safe work environment with good equipment
  • Be respectful, honest and supportive as a manager
  • Pay people fairly for their work and offer employee rewards – for example, healthcare, bonuses, qualifications, or profit-sharing
  • Ensure employees have room to grow, personally and professionally
  • Be transparent about the business, its operations, and organisational structures
  • Be flexible – for example, offering home, hybrid or flexi-working
  • Recognise and reward achievements, both for collective teamwork and individually
  •  Ask employees what they want.

Redefine the management of people in your business environment

Prepare for senior leadership goals – and learn the skills to support and empower your team effectively – with Keele University’s online MSc Management with Sustainability programme.

Alongside managing people and organisations, you’ll gain critical, in-depth understanding of the operational realities of running a business and navigating fast-paced, challenging situations and work contexts. Our flexible programme introduces you to the social, environmental and global implications of management, with learning grounded in real-world practice. Your studies – with a central focus on sustainability – will encompass strategy, supply chain management, organisational change, green finance, organisational behaviour, effective leadership, marketing and more.

Top 10 for Student Experience (Times Good University Guide, 2020)
80% of research 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent' (Research Excellence Framework, 2021)
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96% Graduate Employability (HESA - Destination of Leavers from Higher Education 2017)

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