Practice Makes Perfect...Management

Practice Makes Perfect...Management

Ruth Eastwood Headshot - Grand Theatre Blackpool

by Ruth Eastwood, Chief Executive Officer for Blackpool Grand Theatre

Date Published: 02 October 2017

How many of us excel in a junior post and then, because we’re good at that, are offered promotion and suddenly find ourselves managing people?  That’s what happened to me.  Instead of being the specialist who could concentrate on my own, individual, area of expertise, now I had to get things done through the efforts of others – my team.  That’s quite a difference.  But one that frequently goes unrecognised by those offering the advancement.

But why?  If I’m good at making show-stopping cakes, why would I, suddenly, also be good at, say, driving a car?

I was lucky, I happened to have a manager who was aware of the skills gap and was prepared to invest in my development.  In fact, not just my development, but that of the whole team.  And that’s where my passion for investing in people stemmed from.

You see, I believe that the single most important working relationship anyone has is the relationship with their line manager.  It can be the most motivating (or demotivating) thing about going to work.  Motivated staff are more productive.  Demotivated staff can be a hand-full at best, and disruptive at worst.

The first question I ask when I’m working with groups is, “Give me an example of when you’ve been well managed and another of when you haven’t”.  Sometimes the answers are toe curling, like the manager who listened to a staff member’s grievance, dutifully wrote it down and then, when she asked, “What are you going to do about it?” tore the sheet of notes off the pad, stuffed them in his mouth and chewed them up in front of her!  Not the most motivating manager!?!?

We often hear of investment in senior management retreats and executive coaches, but I think the learning (and the investment) should start with junior staff – bottom up, not top down.  Why?  Well, because the young or new managers of today will become the leaders of tomorrow.   And that’s why UK Theatre designed Effective Management and Leadership in the Arts…to give new manager’s a great start in their work life.

But where to start?  Well, I believe it starts with YOU.  Why?  Well, because you have choices about how you behave and how you’d like to be perceived at work.  Being a manager is a role.   And like any role in theatre or the arts, it benefits from rehearsal (or practise, as you might say). 

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no one-size-fits-all management style or universally agreed theory, but if you can begin to understand and use the basics of good management – clear objective-setting, constructive feedback, good communication –  and understand yourself, you can begin to understand (and manage) others better.

How do I know it works?  Well, because that’s where I started.  My manager invested the time and effort our whole team: learning about our different strengths; areas to work on; and why it’s great that we aren’t all the same!  And, as a manager, I’ve copied the good example she set and invested in my own teams and individuals throughout my career.  And I continue to do so through Effective Management and Leadership in the Arts.  Because I believe it’s better to invest up front and create the foundations on which to build your management skills rather than just being given a set of keys and told to go drive that car.

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