Employer Branding

What Can We Learn From Fictional Managers?

To celebrate National Boss Day – a day designated for employees to show appreciation to their bosses – Perkbox polled 2,000 UK employees to ascertain which fictional managers come out top.

National Boss Day is a good excuse for us all as leaders to pause and reflect on our own performance – the good, the bad and the ugly. For example, have we asked our reports for feedback on our own performance as a manager? What about allocating time to develop our own managerial skills?

To help you get started, our research has uncovered three things we can learn from fictional managers. Let’s find out what they are!

1. Find the management style that works for your employees

Our research found that naturally, individual employees prefer different styles of management – i.e. a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not be the most effective. However, it also found which styles are the most popular among employees.

In particular, UK employees’ preferred management approach is the ‘consultative’ one, where trust and confidence are placed in employees and management actively seeks out their opinions. It was chosen as the preferred style by 57% of employees. The laissez-faire style followed after that (30% of votes) – an approach where managers act as mentors as opposed to leaders.

However, beyond “popularity”, the key to success in finding the management style that will work for your employees is analyzing your company’s culture. If you work in a creative industry for example, where working hours are flexible and there is an autonomous atmosphere, a laissez-faire approach may be more appropriate. In comparison, a consultative style may be ideal for a culture where ‘team’ is prioritized over ‘individual’.

Considering culture in this way is important, otherwise, you risk facing problems in the future like lower productivity, higher turnover rates, and poor quality work as your employees won’t be motivated or engaged with your management approach.

2. Communication is as important as ever

The research also found that a huge two thirds (70%) of employees believe communication skills are ‘very important’. Only 1% feel these are “not important at all”- we can, therefore, conclude that communication is as important as ever for many UK employees.

However, in today’s technology-laden workplace, it can often be difficult as leaders to strike a balance between under and over communication. With tools like Slack, it’s possible to instantly chat with an employee on the other side of the office without leaving your desk. It sounds great in theory, but technology like this has also created the problem of information overload, resulting in the same message being sent several times on different platforms – increasing the risk of confusion. When it comes to communication, it’s best to keep it structured, but also, to keep it simple.

Be understanding of failure

The best leaders show empathy and understanding of failure, which may help explain why Ms. Honey, the fictional leader from Matilda was very popular amongst employed Brits. She was chosen to be the most understanding of failure when compared with “M” (James Bond), Jessica Pearson (Suits) and Miranda Priestly (Devil Wears Prada).

To become more understanding of failure as a leader, why not reposition your thought process to one that sees failure as an opportunity for you and your employees alike to learn and progress faster. We are naturally inclined to avoid failure at all costs – but the reality is, failure leads to a deeper level of self-reflection that simply doesn’t come with success. It also leads us to become resilient, a skill that will benefit us time and time again throughout our careers.

Adopt this approach yourself and it will make you both a better manager and leader as you will naturally be able to empathize and resonate with how your employees feel when things don’t go as expected. This will also help foster an environment of psychological safety where people feel they can test new things and learn from them. The best part is that, in the end, this can have a knock-on positive effect on your company’s performance too.

So there you have it, three things we can learn from fictional managers this National Boss Day! Not only that, but you may also learn something from your employees from communicating with them about your management style.

As a wise man once said, “In learning, you will teach, and in teaching, you will learn.”

About the author: Ed Ellis, is Organisation Readiness Director at Perkbox.

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