How to become a better manager

Managers too often find excuses not to look in the mirror, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Management Today

Managers need to know what type of shadow they cast – whether they lift their team up, or drag them down. The problem is we don’t look at ourselves enough. The prospect of finding out that we’re a poor manager is so daunting that it’s often easier to simply carry on as usual in the forlorn hope that even if you’re not getting it quite right now, you’ll get there eventually. 

The organisational psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic has made a career of researching, writing and speaking about what makes people tick and why companies often get that wrong. Make no bones about it, he says, a person who lacks self-awareness will never be a good leader.

In the final instalment of his recent interview with Management Today Tomas says there’s only one way to become better at it. “The most important thing is you have to get into the habit of receiving regular feedback, particularly from your direct employees. It doesn’t matter whether it is online, or in person, at a group level or in a team meeting, you have to give people the space, and psychological safety, to openly provide you with feedback about your performance and behaviour. 

“It can be simple questions like, ‘How am I doing as a boss?’ or  ‘Is there anything I should be doing to make you work better or make you more effective as a team?’ or more specific, task-orientated, questions such as, ‘We submitted this proposal; what would you have done differently?’ or ‘Where do you see an opportunity to improve?’

“You have to make it easy for people to provide you with negative feedback and then thank them for it. We see ourselves in the reflection of others, but managers find multiple excuses to not look in that direction and only seek praise and positive feedback. If your idea of management is to surround yourself with people who tell you that you’re great, then you’re just a narcissist. 

“Get into the habit of receiving negative but constructive feedback. Structure it so that there is a process. Show vulnerability, show empathy; that’s when people are going to like working for you because they will see someone who is trying to improve and who is not deluded.”

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