‘I was always taught to manage as if I was the host of a house party. Take care to make sure that people have what they need, that they are comfortable, talking to the right people and enjoying themselves. And it works for me.'
In her job at Kent Messenger, Viv is first port of call for rookies entering the newspaper business, since she gives them such a good start. By supporting their learning, challenging them to do a really good job and celebrating their success, she provides a great environment for them to excel in their early days. People who begin with such care are more likely to make great managers themselves in the future.
To quote John Timpson from his little book How to Be a Great Boss:
Great bosses come in all shapes and sizes . . . it's the person's personality that counts. A boss's reputation depends on his people - great bosses have great people. As soon as they think they are dispensable, they can lose the plot.
As John says, the team need the manager to make decisions, but it is the team that turn the decisions into success. This is the central thrust of great company management. Managers create the environment that will support, challenge and bring out the best in people.
So that phrase ‘servant leadership' crops up again - and here we are talking not just about designated leaders but about everyone who works with people. John Timpson calls it ‘upside-down management', Flight Centre talk of ‘back-to-front leadership', but the impact is the same. In servant leader organisations, managers see it as their job to help people do their work well. And that is upside-down to many managerial mindsets. The power of the boss goes out of the window and the importance of the colleague flies in.
Once this happens, a different competence is required. When choosing managers, people skills take priority over specialist skills. So many scientists, engineers, teachers, accountants, etc are promoted into management roles because they are great at their work. They may be hopeless with people, but taking on management responsibility is the only way to move up the ladder. However, management is a skill in its own right - a fact readily acknowledged in great companies.
Companies like AstraZeneca have created a whole new career structure around scientific skill to ensure that this does not happen. They also recognise that highly skilled specialists are so good at the job because they love it. Take them away from the nitty-gritty and they lose their delight. Putting them with people to manage is not fair to them or to the business. Honda have done the same for management, having a small number of people who specialise specifically in management.