Gerry Devine - Practice Manager Adviser

Managing People: Are you a manager or a leader?

The first post in our two-part ‘Managing People’ series explores the difference between a manager and a leader. Gerry Devine discusses how you can use leadership skills to successfully manage and motivate staff in your practice...

I recently presented at a Practice Managers Conference on maintaining employee morale. The overriding theme of my talk at the General Practice Management: Fit for the Future event was leadership – more specifically, the differences between a leader and a manager. Is there a difference between the two, or do they go hand in hand?

I believe that to be a good manager you need to first and foremost be a leader – coaching and motivating your staff through changes. Leaders with strong moral principles help to foster good employee morale, which in turn creates a more pleasant and successful Practice for patients and staff.

What can you do to make sure you are a good leader, as well as a manager?

  • Coach employees – rather than drive them.
  • Cultivate good will – don't rely purely on authority.
  • Generate enthusiasm – instead of inspiring fear.
  • Say ‘We’ – don’t repeatedly say ‘I’.
  • Fix a breakdown – rather than place the blame on others.
  • Show how it’s done – don’t just ‘know’ how it’s done.
  • Develop people – instead of using people.
  • Give credit – don’t take it.
  • Ask – don’t command. 

As you can see, morale is really at the key of management and leadership. As a leader, you will boost morale by giving staff well-structured appraisals, on-going training and support for personal and career development, act on staff feedback and target problems by using hard and soft intelligence about staff experience and morale.

But what other steps can you take?

  • Reward good work when you see it and celebrate achievements – Think of simple ways to recognise and appreciate good performance by employees. You may be able to develop your own versions of the British Gas ‘grab your Coat’ or Virgin’s unlimited holiday approaches to recognise and encourage improved employee performance.

  • Establish smart and coherent goals – Employees need to know the values and aims of their employer. This helps them to understand what is important and how they can best contribute.  Having a mission statement can give real clarity to this.

  • Know how your staff work – Managing people is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach, Managers who know the individuals who make-up their teams and who adapt their style to get the best out of each of them will optimise the performance of each individual and the team.  In addition it is then more likely that the team’s contribution will add-up to more than the sum of its parts.

  • Encourage Strengths – If you have a star performer who is particularly passionate about their work then encourage them as they will then realise their potential whilst also positively contributing more to the Practice.

If you want to ensure you motivate, lead and inspire the staff you manage, you can learn how to do all three in Thornfields workshop Leading People in Primary Care. If you, and your local groups of managers think you could benefit from a new approach to managing people, contact us for details of the programme.


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