We all want managers who are supportive. A little bit of praise goes
along way whereas constant critics undermines confidence and can be
demotivating. All to often we hear of managers who don’t let staff
know they value their work or are too quick to allocate blame when
something goes wrong. So when you read staff feedback that management
are supportive you think they must be doing something right. But you
would be wrong.
A recent inspection report criticised managers for being supportive
rather than challenging. The inspectors claimed that managers were
failing to question decisions resulting in other options not being
considered, opportunities missed and poorer outcomes.
It is of course all about getting the balance right. Challenge
too hard, too often or inappropriately and it’s bullying. Support
uncritically and its a failure to manage.
So what does it mean to be a supportive manager? It means recognising
and acknowledging when there are difficulties. It involves expressing
confidence in the individual’s ability, valuing their contribution,
when necessary revitalising the individual and generally making them
feel good about themselves and their work. Being supportive involves
developing the individual by encouraging them to stretch themselves
and take up learning opportunities. For most people having a
supportive manager means recognising they are an individual not a work
drone. That they have good and bad days, that sometimes things outside
of work effect their performance and that they should be cut some
slack occasionally. It does not mean allowing people to get away with
poor attendance, ignoring bad practise or accepting lower standards.
Knowing when and how to support and when and how to challenge is part
of being an effective manager. It’s a rare manager who always gets the
balance right but it is a skill that can be developed if your
prepared to listen to the advice of HR and learn from more experienced colleagues.
Blair Mcpherson former Director author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk