We hear a lot about the importance of ‘authenticity’ and of managers ‘being themselves’ at work, but often a manager’s true self can be an unwelcome revelation for staff, and with 2018 stretching ahead a return to key management basics might be in order. Tom Fielder of management training consultancy LDL offers some pointers.

The Financial Times Corporate Learning Alliance recently published its predictions for 2018. Very funny, and, as you might expect, sharply intelligent, the predictions cover a range of issues from the continued rise of AI to the return of focus to the middle manager.

My favourite of the predictions however, has to be number two: ‘the death of authenticity’:

“It is often said that if you can fake authenticity you’ve got it made. In 2018, many more managers will stop trying to ‘be themselves’. This will be a relief for staff who either did not like their line manager’s true nature or never believed the act in the first place. It will be replaced, hopefully, by a return to management basics – clear communication, constructive feedback and conflict resolution.”

In the spirit of a return to these key management basics, I thought I’d get the trend started with a few tips for managers and entrepreneurs across the three areas identified in the article: clear communication, constructive feedback and conflict resolution.

  1. Clear Communication
It takes effort to be precise and clear when communicating with staff, especially in complex, open-ended situations. But clarity is the engine of action, and having a clear focus helps to unlock the energy staff might need to get started on a task.

So don’t be afraid of saying clearly what needs to be done! Clear communication is to a large extent about making sure that you are on the same page as an employee and that they know what it is that you expect them to be doing. It is therefore about simple things such as checking the wording of your emails, as well as making sure staff know their targets and responsibilities and have sufficient information from you to hand.

But if clear communication is about ‘substance’, it is also about a certain kind of ‘style’. The key for managers is being neither a bully nor a push-over when communicating with staff but instead to be calm, confident and assertive. Assertive communication is about communicating clearly and confidently without making yourself or others look small. It is about being direct and persuasive whilst also supporting the opinion of others. Assertive managers help to inspire a culture of entrepreneurialism and professionalism within organisations.

  1. Constructive Feedback
The ability to give feedback professionally and effectively should be a central skill of all aspiring managers. But many managers in the UK don’t seem to be very good at it, with regular coaching and feedback conversations still rare in organisations.

The first step in giving feedback is to make it clear what exactly the feedback is for, and to make sure that the recipient understands the issue at hand. Then the issue, good or bad, needs to be dealt with in a constructive way which engages the attention and energy of the individual concerned. Appropriate follow-up actions may be applied either to embed the required changes back at work, or to recognise and reward particularly good work.

Constructive feedback conversations should be regular occurrences in any workplace. Make sure there is a formal schedule in place, for example with regards to appraisals, and avoid the pitfalls of favouritism. Try to have frequent formal or informal feedback conversations with all members of staff where appropriate. Who can you next catch doing something right?

  1. Conflict Resolution
Handling conflict effectively is a key management skill. Although it may be fun to have a little ‘drama’ in the office, unresolved conflict can fester for long periods, distracting people from their work, damaging employee relationships and even leading to an increase in staff turnover.

If you do observe conflict as a manager you have a choice: do you let the conflict run its course, trusting those involved to effectively resolve the issue, or do you intervene? Often you will be able to let a minor conflict run its course without intervention. But if emotions are aroused and people seem to be getting upset, you should always intervene.

Effective conflict resolution should involve hosting independent discussions with each party to understand what the issue is, and to try to encourage each person involved to see the other party’s point of view. See if you can identify any underlying issues which may have caused the conflict and which might help you to create better conditions for both parties moving forward.

So there’s a few pointers for managers and entrepreneurs across three key areas. Don’t neglect the basics and keep working on your competence in these areas for a successful and prosperous 2018!

By Tom Fielder, Marketing Manager at LDL, Leadership Development Ltd. LDL is a management training and sales training consultancy based in London.