Want To Become A Better Manager?

By Tatiana Chalkidou and Michael J. Bradley
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / ra2studio

Being a manager is not easy because it usually involves both tasks and people. The latter are considered the greater challenge for managers because too often organizations view employees in much the same way as material resources—a commodity. Managing people is not a talent many inherit, nor is it learned overnight. While experience may be the best teacher, the most effective and dynamic managers are those who can switch their mindset with the same facility as switching gears.

Managers confront challenges daily that force them to focus on goals and how to achieve them. No two challenges are alike, so managers must be able to adapt to various approaches. J. Gosling and H. Mintzberg have identified five different mindsets that managers must use if they want to manage employees and teams effectively:

  • Reflective

  • Analytic

  • Collaborative

  • Active

  • Contextual.

The reflective mindset deals with managing one’s own ego. “Reflective” as an adjective comes from the Latin word reflectere , which literally means “to turn back.” While conducting their daily routine, managers need to make time to stop, take a breath, and reflect. Events can only become experiences if they are processed and reflected upon, so managers must take the time to ensure they gain experience and not simply engage in events. For managers to be most effective, they need to initially focus their attention first internally, and later externally.

With the analytic mindset, managers examine the management of the organization. No organization exists without analysis because this structure is analytic by nature. Analysis helps managers separate complex situations to identify the important aspects, while filtering out the unimportant ones. Literally, “analysis” means to “let loose.” However, the purpose of analysis is not to simplify complex decisions, but to retain the ability to act because of better knowledge of the situation. Therefore, improved analysis provides managers an opportunity to understand what is driving their efforts. To conduct an effective analysis, one needs to go beyond the conventional approach and learn to appreciate how analysis works and what effect it has on the organization (Gosling and Mintzberg).

In managing relationships, managers need to shift into a collaborative mindset. Gosling and Mintzberg argue that Western managers often have a limited perspective. Too often, they regard employees as independent actors, or as assets that can be shifted and redistributed as needed. In reality, the primary goal should be to manage relationships between people who work in teams and projects, sometimes within the same department or even across departments. This is much different than specifically managing individuals or employees. Notably, the collaborative mindset calls for implementing an engaging intrapersonal management style. For managers to be more engaging, M. Armstrong suggests they need to spend more time listening than talking. With this approach, managers interact with employees and do not remain isolated in their respective roles. The collaborative manager is an insider who gets involved and manages holistically. For managers to adapt to such a mindset, they need to become involved without being the focus of attention. Implementing the collaborative mindset means transferring the responsibility and the initiative to employees; it also means that employees have the power over their work styles and task management.

To help managers deal with significant change, a “shifting into the action” mindset may be fitting. Gosling and Mintzberg compare an organization to a carriage being pulled by wild horses. These horses represent the emotions, ambitions, and motives of people in an organization. Effective drivers do not race the horses through a zigzag course with the help of a whip; instead, they develop a feeling for the terrain and the distance ahead. Likewise, leading people requires some amount of action. This mindset carefully considers change only when absolutely necessary, and ensures everything else remains status quo. Therefore, for managers to be effective, the objective should not be change for change’s sake; instead, they need to be ready, curious, watchful, and eager to gain new experiences (A.Cox, et al.). They need to manage change while also providing a sense of security.

Last but not least, the worldly mindset requires management to be contextual. We live and work in a world that, with closer examination, consists of many individual “worlds.” Gosling and Mintzberg recommend managers acquire both theoretical and practical knowledge of societies worldwide. However, this mindset is not only applicable to managers active in global endeavors. Managers must leave their offices and spend time where services are offered, customers are served, and employees are working. In doing so, they will get to know the environments, customs, and cultures of their employees and customers (Cox, et al.). For example, in today’s workplace it is common that employees will consist of mixed-generation groups. Working to understand how age differences may be a benefit to the organization, and how employees and customers of different ages interact, may help managers be more understanding and thus more effective. This mindset complements the reflecting mindset, which revolves around the manager and his or her own world, enabling contextualization for the manager in regards to the workplace, employees, and others.

As you may have suspected, these different mindsets commonly overlap. Gosling and Mintzberg conclude: “Imagine the mindsets as threads and the manager as the weaver. Effective performance means weaving each mind-set over and under the others to create a fine, sturdy cloth.” (p.63). When managers within the same organization cooperate with each another in an analytic and worldly way, blending their reflected actions together, a foundation for a successful organization is in place.

Work Cited

Armstrong, M. (2008). How to be an Even Better Manager (7th ed.). Philadelphia: Kogan Page.

Cox, A., Lonsdale, C., Sanderson, J., and Watson, G. (2005). The Right Tools for the Job: On the Use and Performance of Management Tools and Techniques . New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gosling, J. and Mintzberg, H. (2003). “The Five Minds of a Manager.” Harvard Business Review , 81(11), 54-64.

Tatiana Chalkidou is a freelance consultant for Municipality of Nikea and Agios Ioannis Renti (Greece), Division of Parks, working in park management and playground projects. She holds a Ph.D. from OklahomaStateUniversity in Health, Leisure, and Human Performance, a M.B.A. and a M.Sc. in Human Resources Management and Development from University of Leicester in the UK, and a B.S. in Physical Education and Sport Science from University of Athens, Greece. She can be reached via email at tat.chalkidou@okstate.edu .

Michael J. Bradley is an Assistant Professor for Department of Recreation and Park Administration, EasternKentuckyUniversity. He holds a Ph.D. from OklahomaStateUniversity in Health, Leisure, and Human Performance, a M.S. from WesternIllinoisUniversity in Recreation, Park & Tourism Administration, and a B.S. from OklahomaStateUniversity in Leisure Studies. He can be reached via email at Michael.Bradley@eku.edu.