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Academic explains how good managers are stepping out of the limelight

06 Sep 2013

Good managers are stepping out of the limelight and giving employees their chance to shine, according to new analysis from London Business School management and strategy expert, Professor Birkinshaw.

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In his new book Becoming a Better Boss: Why Good Management is So Difficult, Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, London Business School, outlines three ways in which good managers are stepping back to empower their employees.

Three ways to empower your workforce


1. Letting go - giving up power to others, sharing information and letting people make mistakes


2. Giving credit to others - recognising their achievements and looking for ways to enrich their work


3. Self-control - judging the right mix of analysis and intuition, prioritising your time to the right mix of tasks and balancing short and long-term priorities

Professor Birkinshaw explains: “We know what good management looks like, but exercising this knowledge can be an unnatural act for humans. We often hear about the bad bosses but what are the good bosses doing? They’re inverting the lens, taking a step back, letting go and giving credit to their employees.”

In his analysis, Professor Birkinshaw looked at the leading Scandinavian insurance company “If”. “If” successfully implemented simple management changes with a positive impact on employee satisfaction and company performance. Team leader Lotta was excused from two hours of meetings a day to allow her to work closer with her team.  The company also ran a workshop to seek employees’ feedback on sales tactics.

“Giving employees more influence by asking for their feedback and allowing Lotta to work more closely with her direct reports and encourage peer-to-peer coaching, meant that the company saw a positive impact on employee satisfaction and performance.  They achieved this through letting go and giving credit to others”, says Professor Birkinshaw.

But, managers must remember that giving credit to others isn’t quite the same as letting go, he adds: “They’re obviously linked, but giving credit to others involves downplaying your ego, letting go involves downplaying your involvement.  They’re flipsides of the same coin, but the underlying factors that shape them are different.”

The new book, he says, is not simply about re-inventing management, “it is about rethinking the role of management.  It is about understanding your employees, your organisation, and yourself more acutely, and treating these components as they are, rather than as you would like them to be.”


Becoming A Better Boss: Why Good Management is So Difficult, will available from 20 September.