Good advice on managing staff

 The Successful Manager: Practical Approaches for Building and Leading High-Performance Teams, James Potter and Mike Kavanagh, ISBN-13: 979-8557682312 Available from

Being a successful manager does not come easy to many doctors. Jane Braithwaite reviews a book that sets out to help.

Managing people can be one of the most rewarding jobs. Just ask someone to describe their best manager and you will hear very clearly the impact that a good manager can have on an individual.

But managing teams is challenging and requires a new set of techniques, expertise and processes.

For most people, the journey into a management role goes something like this.

You master your job role and your company recognises you as a valued employee who delivers great work. Your company offers you a promotion into the role of team manager so that you can lead a team of individuals, some of whom were your peers, and ensure they all, in turn, do good work and become a valuable asset to the company.

Difficult adventure

Whether you are a doctor, an accountant or a nurse, this typical journey is very common. Very few organisations offer management training at the right time and so, as new managers, we find ourselves embarking on an important and difficult new adventure with limited knowledge and guidance.

I love managing people and while I have been doing it for many years now, I still enjoy learning more about leadership and management from others with more experience by reading books and listening to podcasts.

So when I was asked to review this book by James Potter and Mike Kavanaugh I was very happy to take on the task.

The Successful Manager is a book that promises to deliver practical approaches for building and leading high-performance teams, and it does not disappoint. The authors have drawn on their vast experience within their organisations and their work with other organisations to produce the book.

James Potter is the chief operating officer at Dunes Point Capital. Before this, he was the senior managing director and Global Practice Leader at Blue Ridge Partners, a global management consulting firm that focuses exclusively on accelerating profitable revenue growth.

He has helped more than 100 organisations and their leadership teams. The measure of his success is the results he drives for his clients and their organisations.

Mike Kavanagh is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, consultant and educator in the areas of leadership, performance and personal development. He is the founder of Self-Mastery for Leaders, a business that arms individuals with the tools to maximise well-being, reclaim their time and freedom, and become world-class leaders.

Greater performance

The book is an excellent read for those moving into management for the first time and I would highly recommend it to all new managers. But it also helps more experienced managers to reflect on their management style and enhance their working methods to achieve greater performance.

Managing is incredibly challenging especially in the first year as you establish yourself as a leader and manager. An important part of being a great manager is being very clear on your style, standards and expectations, so, initially, there is a process of clarifying this for yourself before you can communicate your ethos to your team.

In Chapter 2, the authors share their opinions on the seven characteristics of great managers by way of the acronym TEACHER. The seven elements of TEACHER are a great support tool for both new and experienced managers, providing some clear pointers on what characteristics are important to be a good manager.

For example, ‘T’ represents ‘transparency’ and the importance of being open and honest to develop trust. Your team needs to trust you and you need to trust them. To build this trust, the manager must be honest, even when the news being shared is not positive.

Being courageous enough to share difficult information with your team develops an environment where your team knows that honesty is paramount. They will also recognise your integrity which in turn develops loyalty.

Relax control

One of the greatest challenges for managers is delegation, as it requires us to relax our control and trust others to deliver to our high expectations. There are numerous helpful tips on prioritisation, delegation and time management in Chapter 4.

For most managers, but especially for new managers, there is a desire to control the work that their team is doing and importantly how they do it.

This desire for control is understandable, as we want to ensure that the work is delivered to our high standards, but, in the longer term, too much control will always prove to be unproductive. Eventually, to become a good manager, there is a need to release control and to empower team members to do their work in the manner that suits them best, which may well be a better way.

Learning how to delegate effectively is a vital skill for all managers for the very basic reason of productivity. One person simply cannot be involved in everything. And, for team morale, there is nothing worse than micromanagement, as it makes the team feel that they are not trusted and develops a negative culture.

As this is such a recent book, there is a chapter dedicated to managing remote and distributed teams and the effects the pandemic has made on the growth of this type of team.

Working with remote individuals does require an adapted approach and this is well described by the authors. To lead a successful remote workforce, managers have to stop focusing on what the authors describe as ‘face time’ or presenteeism but on the outcomes that are being delivered and this can be a big change for many.

Walking around

Another very strong example of how managers need to adapt is the practice of managing by walking around. When the whole team is office-based, a regular walk of the office informs a manager about how his/ her team members are doing. (See ‘How to hang onto your staff’ in our June issue).

The general demeanour and body language of staff will give useful insights into their motivation levels and identify any individuals who may need additional support. When team members are remote, a manager has to work harder to get these insights, by holding regular catch-up calls and asking the right questions.

If I was asked how the book might be improved, I would suggest that some tasks were set for the reader at the end of each chapter. This would encourage the reader to reflect on what they have read and their behaviours and agree and document some actions for change, making the book more of a workbook.

In my experience, taking the time to undertake exercises like this helps to embed what has been read and makes it much more likely that the learning will be put into practice.

I would highly recommend taking the time to read it and embrace many of the authors’ well-described suggestions.

Jane Braithwaite (right) is managing director of Designated Medical, which offers bespoke support across accountancy, marketing, medical PA, HR and recruitment