Can you spot a good versus a bad manager?

Cartoon: Can you spot a good versus a bad manager?

Some people are identified as good managers and others as bad managers. What makes the difference?

The role of a manager is to get the job done. Good managers get the job done because they devote a lot of time to planning it. They plan:-

  • Holiday rotas
  • Staff recruitment (internal or external)
  • Employee skills to be developed
  • Work to delegate to team members
  • Performance reviews…

Before good managers leave work every evening, they plan their work for the following day and note it down in a prioritised To-Do list. They following day they stick selfishly and ruthlessly to their daily plan and they get lots of important work done. They are respected for being so calm and so in control and achieving so much.

Bad managers are too busy to plan. They rush about in a panic. They hassle their team. They put themselves under pressure. They are late for meetings and can’t remember why they agreed to attend the meeting. They hold onto work while their team watch them with grim smiles. Everything seems so out of control.

Without a plan, there is drift. If a manager has no plan, s/he will drift from task to task. Interruptions will be welcomed. As will invitations to meetings and presentations. The manager will be constantly busy but busy doing what? Bits and pieces of unimportant work is the answer. Answering trivial emails. Holding long and valueless telephone conversations. Having chats with team members that serve no purpose. Just drifting purposelessly through the working day.

Look at managers that you respect and those for whom you have little regard. Note the differences. It always comes down to planning. Planning gives purpose, control and achievement. It is equally useful for helping managers to decide what work does not need to be done (this is the stuff that ties up the bad managers).

So how can a bad manager change behaviour and become a successful manager? The starting point is always to prepare a plan for the next working day and to stick to that plan. The plan / list should be quite short – leave all trivial stuff off the list. It should be a list of important things that you definitely can and will get done the next day. Execution of that plan must be the top priority for every working day.

The results are awesome. You will do the work that needs to be done rather than the work that cries out to be done. You will be less stressed and more respected. Your team will be happier and more productive. You will be able to leave work earlier. You will gain confidence and wake up one day to the realisation that you are a good manager.


Tony Bourke is a facilitator and consultant who specialises in management development training, executive coaching and workplace dispute mediation. He has worked worldwide in senior management positions in multinational companies such as Conoco (UK), ICL, Wang and Unisys. Tony is IMI associate faculty at IMI and teaches on Front Line Management and Managing People programmes. For details of the IMI Diploma programmes available through ManagementWorks, visit our programme page.