Monthly Archives: June 2010

How to Communicate Like a Good Manager

Many people want to know how to be a good or a better manager, supervisor or team leader. This is hard to answer sometimes, as it may depend on culture, corporate culture, previous expectations and promises, and company as well as personal values.

The main point to remember is to show respect, calmness, and vision in all your communications. Bullies are not respected, even if they are feared. You must be firm but fair. At the same time ‘softies’ often are not listened to or given respect either. I recently had an email from an old Chinese friend (really nice sweet guy) who was asking for advice on how to manage foreign English teachers in China at his company. Apparently whenever they didn’t agree to some term of employment, they simply ‘played the foreigner card’ and claimed that they don’t have to do that because things are different in their own country. Smells like arrogance to me. The funny thing is, this nice guy who was asking me for help really wanted me to give him advice on understanding Westerner’s employment standards and practices.

That is a good thing to do, since he is managing them. However I reminded him that they are guests in China and are employees of his company, and that the main way to avoid some confusion is to have a clearly written ‘rules and conditions of employment’ contract which everyone must read and sign. That way both sides are clear on what is expected from the beginning. If the teachers find these rules too difficult then he should invite them to seek employment elsewhere! Of course rules can be bent and terms can be negotiated and re-written, but it cannot be done through bullying or ultimatum-giving, and that is what I wanted my friend to understand. He was being a push-over and they were taking advantage of his hospitality, as I understood. As a manager he needed to learn how to deal with facts (i.e. terms of employment as set out by the company) and be firm but fair in his dealings with his teachers.

Similar things happen all over the world. Here in multicultural Toronto, I come across stories all the time of people who are either being too strong or too shy. How many Russian immigrants have I told to “soften your language” and to “not be so direct”? Almost as many Chinese immigrants I have told to “be more confident in your speech” and to “not be so indirect”! Funny right? And that is just a small sample from my world of being a professional Communication Coach. Many more stories to tell…