Managers Don’t Matter. Only Strong Managers Do.

We’ve all had a bad manager. Perhaps while you are reading this, you still do.

If that is so, it’s easy to fantasize about working in a company with a totally flat organizational structure. In fact, 83% of millennials want fewer layers of management[1]. And in the US, digital games manufacturer Valve has already abolished its entire management level.

But perhaps what is needed is to take a step back to gain some perspective. Instinct would have us believe that good management must matter. And one of the most significant milestones in economic research over the last several years was documenting empirically that it really is true.

A study by the Harvard Business Review in 2012 revealed 3 things[2]. First, that many organizations around the world are very badly managed. Well-run companies set stretch targets on productivity and other parameters, base the compensation and promotions they offer on meeting those targets, and constantly measure results. Something that most organizations failed to do. Second, better management and superior performance are strongly correlated with productivity, return on capital employed, and firm survival. And third, management makes a difference in shaping national performance.

So, it’s the quality of management that matters most.

So how can an organization in Malaysia sort out the strong managers from the weak ones?

Weak managers focus on the process while strong managers focus on progress.

Some process is needed to keep employees in check. But in Malaysia, there is a tendency to have too much. This kills initiative and creativity – the very qualities that ultimately drive the success of any organization. Strong managers know not to destroy it. And are unafraid to adjust or remove processes to help their teams push the envelope. Encouraging progress, not process, is essential for a company’s long-term growth.

Weak managers focus on doing things right, strong managers focus on the right things.

There is a tendency this country to grow up wanting to be the boss. The boss after all, commands respect and power from all those underneath. Strong managers understand that this isn’t how to lead. If you really want to get your company to the top, you need to lift and help others in their career journey. When everyone gets to the top together, the company will be able to stay there longer.

Weak managers worry about competing with others rather than themselves.

The best managers know that the toughest competition comes from within. Our Malaysian tendency of wanting to do better than our neighbors, friends, and colleagues makes us bitter, selfish, and overly inward-looking.

Weak managers work for applause at the expense of the cause.

We tend to compare our success to others in material terms – who has the nicer car, takes the better holiday, owns a bigger house. Employees can tell when a manager is only in it for the money. The strongest leaders know that employees find value in their work because they know it’s meaningful, and so they go about making the cause the mission and not just the strength of the bottom line.

Weak managers say “no, but” while strong managers say “yes, and”.

Playing it safe is an extremely Malaysian corporate trait. Managers are often paralyzed with fear at the mere thought of rocking the corporate boat, so much so that any creativity, innovation, or bright idea that can lead to success is shot down before it gets a chance to leave the presentation meeting room. Strong managers understand that they need to embrace people as they are and build them up to foster passion and creativity. Finding ways to say “yes” is where innovation starts.

Weak managers waste time, strong managers respect it.

The modern Malaysian corporate workday is meeting after meeting. How any actual work gets done is a wonder! Strong managers realize that it’s one thing to keep employees in the loop. It’s another to waste their time with unnecessary meetings. The best managers respect their employees’ time by limiting meetings.

Weak managers keep you from your leave days, strong managers encourage holidays.

How many Malaysians do you know who shy away from utilizing their leave days to the fullest? Sadly, weak managers have fostered an all-work-no-play, be-the-last-one-in-the-office mentality for far too long. Strong managers know that this doesn’t help the workplace. Overworked employees become stressed and burned out, and their productivity falls.

Weak managers scold you for mistakes, strong managers help you learn from them.

The fear of ‘losing face’ in front of our bosses makes weak managers afraid about the very concept of making a mistake. Strong managers know that there’s always a reason to embrace mistakes as learning opportunities. 

At its core, it appears that the most successful companies are managed well in part because they hire the best managers and in part because they find ways to let the less talented ones move on. Malaysian organizations will do well to remember that every manager is not a good manager and should place more importance on the hiring and training of talent to fill managerial roles.

At Accendo, we can help you do that using data and smart technology so that your organization and employees have the right managers leading them to last future success. To learn more, visit us at Accendo




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