Wilbers: A good manager is someone who cares and communicates

  • Article by: STEPHEN WILBERS , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 12, 2014 - 2:00 PM

What is your definition of a good manager?

When I ask participants in my writing seminars that question, I often hear responses such as “A good manager is someone who inspires” and “who motivates.”

I hear “A good manager is someone who creates trust” and “who cares.” I hear “someone who knows what he’s talking about” and “who knows her stuff.” And I hear “someone who appreciates my work” and “who delegates” and “doesn’t micromanage.”

But most often I hear “A good manager is someone who communicates clearly” and “who articulates expectations.”

Management guru Peter Drucker, author of more than three dozen books, including “The Effective Executive” and “Managing for Results,” says good managers motivate and communicate, thereby performing an “integrating” function that encourages individuals to coalesce into teams.

A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of working with a particularly well-managed team in West Chester, Pa. The team members were bright, energetic and motivated. They also were clearly enjoying themselves, both in my seminar and in their work. It was evident they were working in an environment where expectations were high and their efforts were recognized. In other words, they felt both challenged and secure — in contrast to the environment created by the “toxic” leaders in the U.S. Army and elsewhere we’ve been reading and hearing about in the news.

The first thing I noticed was the care with which the managers planned the seminar.

The initial query I received was from the training and communication manager, who carefully explained changes in the company since I had last offered training there and since it had acquired a business in West Chester. She went on to outline six topics of interest: writing in active voice; keeping messaging simple and direct; writing clear, concise sentences; eliminating wordiness and business jargon; using the three-step approach to design effective e-mails; and proofreading effectively.

Then this manager, her supervisor (a vice president), a senior manager and a team member discussed in two separate conference calls with me their broader goals: higher writing standards, greater consistency in word usage and punctuation, and less time spent editing by supervisors.

In other words, they communicated their expectations clearly.

The next thing I noticed was the care with which the vice president communicated the training goals to the seminar participants:

“As you know, we are only days away from our Techniques in Excellent Writing workshop. In preparation, please review and consider the below message from our workshop leader, Stephen Wilbers. Your time and effort to properly prepare will support the value of the workshop, and is appreciated. Good preparation supports good results — both for you personally, and for the team (which benefits when we all get good results).”

Then he and another more senior vice president, as well as the two managers who had helped with planning, attended the seminar themselves, thereby underscoring the importance of the training and leading by example. At the conclusion of the seminar, the vice president presented me with two boxes of Wilbur Chocolate Buds as a thank-you gift. Since the program he has sent not one, but two follow-up messages encouraging team members to continue working on their writing skills.

That’s what I call good management.

Stephen Wilbers offers training seminars in effective business writing. E-mail him at wilbe004@umn.edu. His website is www.wilbers.com.

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