One of many sections of our book, Because Your People Matter: a playbook for management excellence, serialised here.

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Inception: setting the scene about management

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Written by John Berry & Sue Berry on 21st June 2022.0

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Chapter 1, Section 1.1

Because Your People MatterOur book centres on a perfectly normal person who puts themselves forward as ‘manager’ of a firm. In the context here, a manager is someone who sits between the shareholders and other stakeholders and the employees who work in the firm. Put simply, the manager makes the firm work. Without someone in that position, doing what the manager does in working with the employees, the firm would fail.

This book explains how the manager should work with those employees.

About management

Management is an amalgam of many disciplines. At its core is psychology: the science of people and their behaviour. Psychology describes behaviour stemming from both conscious and unconscious thought, and those thoughts are driven by personal and group feelings, attitudes, beliefs, and values.

All managers are psychologists. Each must continually strive to understand the thoughts of the people who work for them and consider what action they might take to influence those thoughts towards their point of view. Ultimately, managers want the people who work for them to behave in a particular way and to realise a particular work outcome.

How people behave is further influenced by their personality, intelligence, knowledge, skills, experiences, preferences, resilience, relationships, motives, and their physical and mental health. Since these are personal characteristics, dependent entirely on the holder, the manager must therefore get the right person in the right job in the first place, and then manage them well. Management therefore begins at the firm’s inception and continues daily thereafter, hiring people, motivating them, and dismissing them if things don’t work out.

In thinking about management, there are four approaches, and we describe these in the Preface. As we note, we favour positivism. Positivism suggests that the manager can infer some causal relationship between an intervention that they might make in a person’s life, and their subsequent behaviour, performance, and personal outcome. There are many unknowns and many environmental and personal issues that might interfere in the relationship between variables, but nonetheless, without intervention, there is no management. And without management, there’s no firm.

Management is therefore first and foremost about intervention.

Managers must also understand other disciplines - primarily law, economics, and politics – because those disciplines provide both opportunity and constrain those interventions.

Management is therefore a complex science. It’s a practice done by the person who puts themselves forward for the role. It’s also a topic of study at universities with maybe 50,000 academics worldwide sharing research on topics from employee selection to wellbeing to employee commitment. There’s therefore much published about how to do it and like science in general, humanity is understanding management better as time passes and new research is published.

Management applies across all organisations from the entrepreneur with a couple of employees and a few suppliers, to multi-nationals with thousands of managers and hundreds of thousands of employees and other workers. Many commentators focus their attentions at the multi-national end – or at least they assume that the manager to whom they talk is employing many. They assume that there are many layers of management and dedicated HR and OD professionals. We don’t make that assumption. Our approaches and methods apply whatever the organisation size, but we focus more on the SME – the small to medium sized firm with between 10 and 250 employees.
Overall, management is about outcomes – and about interventions to realise specific, considered, and desired outcomes.

Finally, management is a practice comprising many techniques, approaches, and tools. It’s something that should work. It should be able to be done well by managers, but mostly it’s something that’s done badly. That would be okay if each manager was cocooned within an excellent support framework – but they’re not. For the most part, managers are alone. The HR and OD and other support services available to managers from trainers, coaches, mentors, and consultants that might augment the manager’s competencies are woeful. And way too few would-be managers put themselves into training schemes.

So, there’s work to be done by everyone who would manage. This book is a start.

Going into management

Many people, termed ‘accidental managers’, enter management without training and often without deliberate thought. Most who put themselves forward for management do so for one reason only – because they have a thirst for power. That power comes in two forms.

Personalised power or ‘P-power’ is the need to set and meet personal goals. Those high in P-power have a need to feed their own egos. They focus on the “I” and see that they are in competition with others in a zero-sum game in which they aim to win while others lose. Those high in P-power are the ‘alphas’. For them, success breeds success and an even greater need for personal enhancement to fuel that power. For them, success is the growing fiefdom, the enlarged sphere of domination and the bigger “I”.

Reviews as images Ron Roser5Socialised power or ‘S-power’, on the other hand, is the need to derive power through others and for others. It’s the desire to use power for the wider benefit. Those high in S-power tend to put the needs of their organisation above their own personal needs – something that is well established as a fundamental need of a good manager.

There’s a balance in each person. Some people are dominant in P-power. Research has found that those high in P-power do drive huge change – but often the resulting organisation does not enjoy on-going stability.

Others are dominant in S-power. Those managers would build a coalition, a consensus for action, rather than giving an executive order.

This balance between S-power and P-power is not a measure of competitiveness, though. Whilst women are typically higher in S-power than P-power, they are just as competitive as men. People can be both highly competitive and dominant in S-power. It’s just that in the S-power case, winning is done with others rather than over others.

So, everyone has both P and S. How each person behaves as a manager depends on which type is dominant.

The firm

We refer throughout to ‘the firm’. We accept that this title has baggage – and describes many forms of entity - so let’s be clear. The firm in this context is any legal, trading entity of any form that employs, or intends to employ people. It may be a commercial firm, in business to make a profit, and the profit motive is pervasive in this book. But the management activities we describe are substantially common in not-for-profits and governmental organisations and for this reason we discuss multiple ‘outcomes’ rather than singular ‘profit’ as the result of business activity.

We are agnostic about the form of firm. It could be a single entity in one place. Or it could be dispersed across a country or across the world. It’s simply an organisation employing people that does something in pursuit of some aim.

The manager

Whilst we focus on the manager as a single person responsible for making the firm work, we acknowledge that the manager will be aided by a ‘senior team’ – a group of individuals who, together, provide all the personal characteristics, competencies and behaviours needed.

In micro firms, there is often only one manager. As the firm grows, the manager delegates more and more of their responsibilities until it’s not one manager but many.

For simplicity, and to retain focus, we still refer to ‘the manager’ even if they delegate to others.

We therefore write for the most senior of senior managers, the first among equals, the managing director or chief executive officer. Equally, we write for all who manage others.

Why firms succeed

If there was a single reason why firms succeed, there would likely be a single set of actions needed and management would be simple. But there is no single reason and management is complex.

Summarising though, firms usually succeed because the manager is successful in motivating the employees to do what they want. Motivation is the central theme, supported by a host of other activities and devices that describe the environment in which that motivation takes place.

The focus

Since success comes from the ability of the manager to work with the employees, we refer throughout to the manager, the employees, and the firm (as a collective of manager and employees). And we leave the reader to reflect on the nuances that inevitably exist in specific cases. Those reflections are highlighted in each section. Here’s the first.

Reflection: You, your firm, and your employees

Considering your firm, identify who your various stakeholders are -
a stakeholder is anyone who has interest in the firm’s success. Consider who put the money up to create the firm and what they, as shareholders, expect from you and the firm. Any finally, think through what the employees want.