At Retail Appointment Live last month, the range of seminars attracted a large turnout, not only those looking for a job but also those who wanted to improve their careers in general. One of the most popular of these was given by Eleni Kasparis of specialist recruitment consultancy Retail Human Resources, in which she asked delegates to consider the question, “Are you a good manager, or a great one?”
Many would argue that there are as many differences between a bad manager and a good one as there are between a good manager and a great one.
Put simply as an example: a bad manager tells employees what to do, a good manager explains why employees have to do it; but great managers involve employees in the problem solving and decision-making, keeping them engaged and allowing them to have an active role in the process.
The question is, how can a good manager elevate themselves to be a great one? The answer is to focus on going above and beyond in three key areas of the business: people management, personal development and commerciality.
In terms of people management, the difference between a good manager and a great one comes down to how you construct your team.
A bad manager will see a team as one group with a task to achieve, expect that everyone will know what that task is and that they will all work together towards the common goal. A good manager will treat everyone in the group according to their separate motivations, which means everyone in the team can achieve success individually. But, the progress of the team as a whole may be inconsistent as the manager gets bogged down with the needs of individuals instead of focusing on the overall group’s objectives.
A great manager, however, will appreciate and respond to the needs of the individuals within the group but will also show them how to work together to achieve and exceed objectives and explain how the success of the team can benefit each individual member, treating everyone fairly. This might mean stretching good employees and potentially removing those who underperform, in a timely manner.
Whereas a good manager might present their team with a clear project plan, a great manager will have the team define a plan to achieve the agreed goals, giving the group a sense of responsibility and ownership over the process. Leading by example, they inspire their teams to complete tasks with as much commitment and diligence as they began with. They will also actively endorse high performing employees to those further up the management chain, calling attention to their successes.
However good a manager is, they must keep in mind their personal development as well as that of their team. A desire to develop and progress is the sign of an engaged and enthusiastic employee and these qualities will help to inspire those in your team to do the same.
If a bad manager doesn’t lead the team at all and a good manager leads from the top, a great manager leads from the front. Seeing the bigger picture, they are unafraid to up-skill their team, giving them all the tools they need to succeed and further their careers. They know that ultimately the reputation for having sourced and trained the best employees will hold more weight (even if they move on to new departments, areas or even employers) than having a stagnant team of people who never go above or beyond expectations.
Good managers work to the expectations of their line managers and respond to their feedback, but great managers actively seek feedback from both their line managers and their team, openly encouraging communication and reacting positively to praise or criticism.
Instead of promising the world and disappointing, great managers make a realistic assessment of their tasks and then strive to over-deliver on their commitments. They set SMART objectives (ppecific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time scaled) to work more efficiently.
With all of the people management involved in the role, it is often easy to neglect one of the most important aspects of your job – the commercial success of the company. However, if this is not actively nurtured and focused upon, even the best of the good managers cannot be a great one.
The personal successes you see when a team member moves up thanks to your training is a great feeling, but it is vital that commercial awareness lies behind your actions. This is the whole understanding of how your business operates and makes money – focus on making profits and achieving aims. Commercial awareness is vital in your current role and when applying for other jobs, too. It will improve your decisions, strengthen your reputation and increase your chances of promotion.
Make sure that you truly understand your business, its mission and vision statement, and become an ambassador for these values. But don’t just concentrate on your own company. Perform competitive shops regularly, analysing what your competitors do really well, how they differentiate themselves and what their visual merchandising strategies are. What is their staffing like? Are there enough people on the floor and are they in the
Use the SWOT analysis method to think about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats presented. Every time you look at a competitor, ask yourself what positives you can take into your own business.
Ultimately, like any other aspect of your working life, going from good to great depends on you putting in the work. However, it is work that will be very much worth the reward.