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27 October 2015

What Makes A Good Manager

It’s a common misconception that having the technical knowledge of the business is the top priority when choosing managers.

I’ve previously highlighted the problem of high performing employees being chosen for promotion into management roles, without necessarily having the right leadership qualities to actually manage.

Technical knowledge can be taught relatively quickly and easily compared to developing leadership skills.

Getting the balance between the two correct protects your productivity. Getting it wrong as your high performing employee is taken off the shop floor into an office means performance drops, and your payroll costs have now increased with a poorly prepared manager whose relative value to the business has reduced.

The first lesson for new managers is learning how to spend their time managing the staff to do the work and not doing the work for them. This requires some re-profiling of how they structure their working day.

Day In The Life Of An Ideal Manager

There are six main activities that the ideal Managers day will consist of. Most are good; some are inevitable but need to be kept to a minimum.

Active Management

This is top priority.

Your manager should focus on the important 20% of the job role to ensure their core activities relate to achieving the business objectives. These objectives will have been clearly defined in the reports they’re now using. You can see some more on how to develop these in my recent blog, Is Your Reporting Driving Your Business Forward?

Active management requires the manager to

  • Plan and issue work to staff, considering Quantity (obviously), Quality, Cost and Time;
  • Regularly check on progress and reduce variations to the plan through proactive problem solving;
  • Motivate and communicate with subordinates to ensure performance improvement is adopted as a culture and not an exception


As I’ve said before, training is a necessity, not a luxury, but doesn’t have to be expensive.

Most skills can be taught on the job when time is made. Ensuring staff are trained in key activities means optimum output. Developing skills also increases overall capability, increasing staff flexibility and motivation.

In a culture of continuous improvement, training means instruction, coaching or mentoring to assist the employee change the way they carry out their work; to improve the time, quality, quantity, cost, productivity, skills and ultimately performance.


It’s unavoidable, but should be time managed.

A Manager has to complete reports, prepare plans and rota’s, update information, meeting agendas, action logs and of course, the dreaded continuous vicious circle of responding to emails.

Effective managers look for ways to reduce paperwork, not avoid it. Ensuring these administrative requirements are focussed on achieving the objectives of improving results. It may also be complying and adhering to company systems, which is unavoidable, such as completing payroll information, overtime forms, expense forms all of which has to be done, unless the Manager can delegate or automate these information requirements.


Time needs to be planned in the calendar, for the Manager to complete their own work.

Projects and responsibilities assigned to them by their Senior Manager will be chosen specifically to develop the Managers own professional capabilities as part of the cycle of succession planning.

The Manager may have a certain portion of the day spent in actually doing the work of the department. This should be defined with the team as to what the Manager can do or shouldn’t do. For example, more complex customer complaints, or service issues should be escalated up to the Manager, but the employee should be briefed as to how to resolve that specific issue for themselves in the future, or the Manager and the team research ways to prevent the same complaint arising in the future.

Passive Management

Interacting with staff but not actively managing them, improves morale, and ultimately performance.

The presence of the Manager in the work area, will maintain a sense of urgency among staff to perform to their best. An employee is less likely to pick up their phone to call the family, check out who’s on Facebook, or start chatting with their colleague next to them if the Manager is in the background. This does NOT mean the Manager is chatting away to the staff and causing distractions.

The Manager should be leading by example and act accordingly in the workplace. Banter, gossip and conversation aren’t ruled out but keep it for the breaks and lunchtimes, and maybe the occasional get together down the pub.

Lost Time

Finally, track lost time or downtime.

Time the Manager spends on problems or issues that, if resolved, could be reduced or eliminated generating more productive time, is classed as Lost Time. Rework, duplication, not working or slack time, all reduce the Managers effectiveness. There will always be some levels of lost time in anyone’s day, but it needs to be kept in check. The business after all, is paying for their Managers time.

With those six categories in mind, a good exercise to work with Managers on, is keeping a daily log perhaps over a week, to determine how much time they are currently spending in each of these areas, and then work out how that could improve to make them better Managers.

You’re probably wondering how these categories should be split percentage wise over the working day. There are no hard or fast rules, but common sense prevails.

The best way is to work with the Manager on deciding between you, what the ideal time profile should look like for your business, but I would advocate the following as a starting point for your discussions.


Active Management 30%
Training staff 20%
Administration 10%
Work 30%
Passive Supervision 5%
Lost Time 5%



Alluxi is here to offer you support through these times of change, bringing a facts and figures approach to evolve your business and realise your goals.

As a first step towards identifying your current business challenges and evaluating where your future opportunities exist within your business, we invite you to complete the in-depth Alluxi Business Success Scorecard delving into the 10 key critical success areas.

Take 15 minutes to respond to the scorecard and get your results within minutes.  You’ll have the opportunity to book a follow-up Productivity to Profit Breakthrough Session to find out how you can implement rapid and measurable improvements.