Supporting performance through being a really good manager

Good managers are key to the success of any organisation and the qualities of a good manager include (to name but a few); self-awareness and understanding their impact on others, ability to plan and set clear objectives and good communication skills to motivate and support others.

Self-awareness and understanding your impact on others

When looking at the traits of successful leaders a key characteristic is an awareness of their own emotions and their potential impact on others. Therefore, to manage teams effectively understanding others is critical.

Objective setting

Clear objectives help us focus our attention, give us a sense of direction and help us manage our priorities effectively – good challenging objectives can also be very motivating. Objectives should be SMART:

  • Specific and stretching – objectives should be as specific and clear as possible and at best stretching i.e. that they provide some challenge for the individual.
  • Measurable – that the objective will indicate that the objective has been achieved.
  • Agreed and achievable – ideally the manager and member of staff should agree the objectives and that the objective is realistic within the context of the post and available resources.
  • Realistic – Objectives are not set in stone, therefore objectives clearly need to change if the situation changes and the goal needs to achieve a balance between difficulty and achievability.
  • Time related – giving things deadlines are good to focus people’s attention and help the manager to follow up on actions and agree expectations.


There is no magic wand when it comes to motivation which is why there are many theories about this area. However, some key aspects to consider as a manger in relation to motivation include:

  • Staff differ in terms of what they want out of a job, so it’s good to find out what they want to achieve and also recognise that what motivates you will not necessarily motivate others.
  • People want a sense of purpose – so ensure that your staff know what’s expected of them and how they contribute to the overall vision of the University.
  • Communicate what is happening in your own area and the University so that people feel informed at a local level and understand the ‘big picture’ in terms of the University.
  • Understand what your team wants from you – and deliver on their expectations.
  • Show interest in your staff.
  • Be enthusiastic and say thank you!


People work at their best when they are motivated and to be motivated they need:

  • To understand how their objectives contribute to the overall aims of the University.
  • To know if they are achieving their objectives and if they are, that this is recognised.
  • That they are consulted about decisions that impact on them.

Clearly a managers ability to communicate effectively is key and therefore you need to consult with your staff (before making decisions, obtain ideas and suggestions), inform your staff (of decisions so staff are kept in the loop regarding changes) and persuade and influence others (so that you can work towards mutually agreed solutions). When you are doing this you need to listen effectively. Listening is a key skill for managers, and will help you to get the most out of the conversations you hold with your staff and other colleagues. Good listeners clarify by asking the speaker to confirm or be more precise about what is being said, and summarise the key points to ensure they understand what is being said. Feedback is also a key skill of a good manager. Feedback can be positive – when managers want staff to continue with good work or developmental – when managers need to address problem areas. Managers often avoid discussing poor performance because they fear the member of staff will react badly or emotionally. Therefore, when giving performance feedback you must:

  • Communicate in a non-judgemental and objective way (i.e. don’t be emotional)
  • Be very specific.
  • Outline exactly what is the problem then identify the impact of the work / others and be very clear about what you want to happen in future.

Many feel defensive about criticism. When this happens, acknowledge it and aim to diffuse it. You can do this by:

  • Listening actively and questioning – by using reflective questions e.g. “How would you deal with that situation again?”
  • Role reversal – if the situation involved other people you can ask what would be their perspective if they were the other person.
  • Self disclosure – explain how the situation has made you feel.
  • Be assertive – you can acknowledge another person’s perspective or feeling but make a clear statement about your perspective about the situation.
  • Seek ideas – help engage the individual in seeking a mutual solution.