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Strategy expert reveals the marketing mantra managers can learn from

09 Sep 2013

Managers can apply an age old marketing mantra to improve their management technique, according to new analysis from Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, London Business School.

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In his new book Becoming A Better Boss: Why Good Management is So Difficult, Professor Birkinshaw explains: “We have all had bad bosses and know that employees who are unhappy with their manager are more likely to disengage and exit.  As a manager your role is to enable your employees to do their best work and marketing is focused on seeing through the eyes of the customer.  Applying marketing expertise to the field of management puts the employee at the centre and allows the manager to see through their eyes.”

Professor Birkinshaw offers a new angle on the old problem of bad management and outlines four marketing principles that can make a manager a better boss.

1.    Cut through the hierarchy
Find ways of developing deep and unfiltered insights into how employees view their work. A Microsoft Executive was reverse mentored by a younger employee to keep him up to date on social media and the Managing Director of John Lewis spends an hour a day on the shop floor alongside employees.

2.    Individualised management
Understand the specific strengths of individual employees and structure work to play to these strengths. Adnovum, the Zurich based software company developed a Facebook-like system for employees to portray their skill sets and themselves.  This allowed the employees and managers to match skills to projects.

3.    Focus on employee experience
Build an understanding of how employees experience the company, and how it could be improved. HCL Technologies has a “smart service desk” which enables employees to open a service ticket on something they’re unhappy about with the relevant manager. Un-opened tickets are escalated higher so the onus is on the manager to ensure the employee feels listened to.

4.    Turn employees into promoters
Improve the quality of management so that employees tell their friends and family about it. Roche, a Swiss pharmaceutical company developed a questionnaire system which asked how likely employees would be to recommend their manager.  

Professor Birkinshaw’s research shows that the quality of your immediate boss has the single biggest impact on your overall engagement at work.  “This is about managers inverting the lens and understanding their employees better,” says Professor Birkinshaw.


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