Management & leadership

So you want to be a charity manager? 10 things you should know

Be careful what you wish for!

DSC_8264Yes – a worthy aspiration.  You may think it is easy to do a great job or that it will be good to sit back and watch the team do all the work, whilst enjoying a bigger desk or even your very own office (a rare luxury nowadays unless you are at least CEO).

On the other hand, you may have high ambitions for your team or be plain shocked that you have been catapulted into the hot seat because no one else wanted to take on the job! As anyone who has stepped into a management role for the first time knows, it is not what you expect. As well as being on a steep learning curve, it often means giving up the things you do best.

DSC_8340Like good leaders, good managers are not born ‘good’; there are skills to be learned which is why instructive manuals, help books, models and degrees on the topic of management exist.  Many of these are helpful and it is often problematic when new managers are expected to perform without any instruction or training at all.

Experience is the greatest teacher and advice not always very palatable, but in terms of the big picture, I would highlight these pointers from many years of experience:

1. Get to really know the individuals in your team

Don’t try and bend them and shape them into ‘square pegs’; they are who they are and help them know their strengths and develop them.  Understand their personal goals and aspirations.

2. Listen well

It’s a bit of a cliché, but give people your full attention and try and listen from their perspective and world, not yours.

3. Be a good communicator

Another bit of a cliché. Communicate with the team as a whole and each individual regularly.  Aim to be as honest and transparent as possible.

4. Always hold the management line

Even if you have private misgivings, take them up with your own boss. Remember you are ‘management’ – this is what you are paid for.

5. Make sure team members get the recognition they deserve (don’t take the credit yourself).

Give positive strokes as much as possible – catch people doing things right.  It is so easy to see what is wrong in an effort to achieve perfection but so much more effective to achieve this thought positive re-enforcement.

6. Learn how to give feedback in a positive and supportive context

This especially important when tackling problems or ‘perceived poor performance’. None of us are very good at receiving criticism and yet we need to recognise when things have gone wrong for whatever reason’.

7. Remember that all of us want to do well

Generally speaking we are doing the best we can with what we have got.

8. Create a culture where people are not afraid to experiment and sometimes make mistakes

As a former boss of mine wisely said ‘delegation is about trusting people to get it wrong sometimes’. Also, delegate the things you enjoy doing the most.

9. Create goals and share vision together

Let people do things their own way where possible; it may not be the way you would chose but their commitment will be greater.

10. Be human

Don’t feel you have to know all the answers and being right all the time is really annoying – nobody wants a robot for a manager. Be supportive and lead from behind but be prepared to step up and ‘carry the can’ in times of change or crisis.  As my former boss used to say ‘don’t expect a salary and a round of applause’.

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