By Reico Wong
Almost everyone dreams about rising up the corporate ladder and becoming part of the management team. But such a job is not always as glamorous as the accompanying title, and not everyone is suited for it.
A huge portion of the job involves dealing with "people problems", and there are seldom quick and easy solutions.
Just ask Ms Belinda Lee, who is a senior vice-president of OCBC Bank's Group Operations and Technology division. She is in charge of some 320 staff members from the bank's Singapore and Malaysia offices.
She has more than 23 years of managerial experience under her belt, and has faced almost every kind of staffing challenge. The challenges include dealing with employees from diverse backgrounds, across different age groups, and with different career expectations and work ethics.
The learning curve can be very steep when one steps into a managerial position, said Ms Lee.
"There really is no hard and fast rule when it comes to managing people, because you are dealing with very dynamic human behaviour and different personalities," she said.
"But, as a manager, you cannot be successful without your team... It is critical to be friends with your staff but, at the same time, ensure that they understand that they must respect your authority as a manager when it comes to work."
Human-resource experts point out that managers today have a much tougher job, as they face a highly diverse and more-vocal workforce thatwill ask tough questions.
Ms Helen Lim-Yang, a senior partner at human-resource firm Capelle Consulting, said: "To be both effective and popular, the manager must be able to adapt to the different communication styles of his team and be savvy in communicating through a variety of channels.
"Most importantly, he should first be able to manage and lead himself. This means being honest about his own goals, motivations, strengths and developmental needs, which include managing stress and time."
Mr Josh Goh, assistant director of corporate services at The GMP Group, agreed that the best managers lead by example.
They need to be aware of the type of response that their behaviour - which sometimes may seem like simple habits - is likely to evoke among staff.
For example, employees would not raise problems to their manager if he constantly shows that he is busy, or respond to questions and interruptions brusquely.
"Employees are most unhappy when management shirk responsibilities at times when support is required, and when there are inconsistencies in the manager's behaviour," said Mr Goh.
"If they are going to follow you, they expect you to be more concerned about their well-being."
This is why Ms Lee said she makes it a point to regularly spend quality time with her team, be it talking to them in the office or over lunch or tea.
She believes that managers need to get to know their staff better as individuals, and to understand their different needs and ambitions.
This is especially so if the nature of the department's work is likely to be monotonous, with long hours, she added.
"Everyone has different motivations. You just need to find out what they are and, when you can, provide them with opportunities to achieve their career goals," said Ms Lee. "This will keep them performing at their best for you."
Complimenting employees in front others or giving them a chance to present to senior management can also make a big difference to staff. This shows that you appreciate their work and have their career development in mind.
"Managing people has helped me to grow, be more tolerant and to value the human element in the workplace," said Ms Lee. "Having a team that not only performs well, but also truly respects you, will enable you to shine in the eyes of your peers and other managers."
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