Saturday, 22 June 2013

What can teachers learn from good managers?

A good manager?
This is a summary of the #eltchat which took place at 12 noon on 19th June.  As a seasoned summary writer (I'm going for the gold medal with this one!!), I'm used to the process.  However, this is the first time I've written the summary not having attended the chat.  As a manager myself, I intended to be there, but, as is often the way, work interfered and I didn't get home in time.  So, what follows is my attempt to give order to the valuable contributions from my fellow #eltchatters.  I hope I have done them justice!  The chat was moderated superbly as always by @Marisa_C and @ShaunWilden.

The idea for the chat came from a talk by Henry Stewart, CEO of the wonderfully named company, Happy Ltd, entitled 'Choose your Boss'.  It was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as part of their Four Thought series.  You can listen to it here. 

The talk began with the assertion that a majority of workers are not happy with their manager and that people often leave a job because of their manager.  @KatySDavies agreed saying that, for her, having a good manager is probably the most important thing in a job now - more important than school, location, facilities, etc.  @cioccas told us that she had, indeed, moved jobs because of bad managers.

Henry Stewart's solution to this problem is that people should be allowed to choose their own manager from those already in a management position.  He suggests that companies should choose who manage people based on how well they manage people!  Too often, people are promoted because they are good at their job, not because they are good at mentoring and managing people.  #Eltchatters argued that perhaps Henry Stewart's ideas were not so applicable in an ELT setting and that, in our industry, good teachers can and do make good managers.  In fact, most participants agreed that having a manager who had never been a teacher was really not a good thing.

So, what are the qualities of a good manager?

Henry Stewart quoted these eight behaviours identified by Internet giant Google Inc.:
  1. Is a good coach
  2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage
  3. Expresses interest / concern for team members’ success and personal wellbeing
  4. Is productive and results-orientated
  5. Is a good communicator – listens and shares information
  6. Helps with career development
  7. Has a clear vision / strategy for the team
  8. Has important technical skills that help him / her advice the team
In addition to the eight behaviours they identified for a good manager, they also narrowed down on the top 3 causes why managers struggle in their role:
  1. Has a tough transition (e.g. suddenly promoted, hired from outside with little training)
  2. Lacks a consistent philosophy / approach to performance management and career development
  3. Spends too little time on managing and communicating.
Henry Stewart concluded that people work best when they feel good about themselves and so the main role of management should be on motivating people, valuing them and improving their self-esteem.

So, what did #eltchatters make of this list?

A good manager
@Shaunwilden pointed out that these eight things would equally apply to teachers and their classes, which is probably why the transition from good worker (teacher) to good manager is smoother and more effective in our industry than in others.  @michaelegriffin questioned the correlation between teaching skill and management, but others begged to differ.  After all, teachers are managing groups of people (students) every day of their working lives.  As @JoshSRound said, 'there are some transferable skills: teachers have to manage students, tutor them, coach them, encourage them, direct them.'

@KatySDavies identified one of her bad managers as being someone who flicked between micro management and then gave no support at all when it was really needed.  That person took no ownership of the work given to staff.  On the other hand, a good manager, in Katy's experience, was one who was supportive without being overbearing and who was genuinely interested in her as a person.  She described the great feeling she gets when she senses she's making a real contribution.

@bhrbahar said that a good manager is fair, honest and has organisational skill.  @jo_sayers added that it is someone who cares and encourages.  The majority of contributors agreed that good managers need to be good communicators with a focus on listening and sharing.  Properly listening and responding to the content of what has been said is vital.

The role of 'coach' was seen as essential, with good managers taking every opportunity to coach their teachers - in meetings, via one-to-ones, through e-mail, at social events, in observations and appraisals, etc.  When there aren't enough occasions like this, managers can seem very disconnected from their teachers.  @cioccas pointed out that teachers need to know that their manager is capable of coaching them, even if they don't need them to.  They can show this in what they say and do, the questions they ask, the interest they show, etc.  Managers could also demonstrate their ability through running workshops themselves, or by finding the right people in their team to do it for them, for example.  It's important that managers make time for coaching.  @JoshSRound told us that he's started to schedule one-to-one meetings with all of his team, a fact which @KatySDavies imagined would make them feel really valued.
In the same way as teachers do for students, managers have to negotiate achievable goals for their teachers.  It needs to be a two-way process and teachers must have a realistic chance of hitting them.

Another similarity between the role of teacher and manager is that both have to know their 'team members' (students or staff) really well.  @MrChrisJWilson told us that one of the best things about his current boss is that he has endorsed his passions and helped him explore them in teaching.  In the same way, if we find our students' passions, we can use that knowledge to enhance their learning.  Good managers should take into account the different learning styles of their teachers as good teachers do for their students.

A good manager briefs well - a useful skill for teachers, too, when it comes to giving clear and unambiguous instructions.

Good managers and good teachers:
  • Listen well
  • Manage discourse well
  • Stay quiet at times
  • Are open-minded
  • Make people feel valued
  • Give clear instructions
  • Allocate tasks well
  • Show concern for and interest in their charges
  • Are organised
  • Negotiate achievable goals
  • Recognise potential and nurture it
  • Treat people as individuals
  • Adapt to the changing needs of their charges
  • Don't hold grudges
  • Solve problems
  • Assess well
  • Value the importance of having a balance between hard work and fun in order to build rapport
  • Encourage
  • Build a sense of team spirit
  • Promote collaboration and sharing
  • Are fair and impartial
  • Step up and take the initiative
  • Explain the rationale behind their decisions
  • Urge people to push themselves
  • Are willing to try new ideas
  • Seek to constantly improve themselves and their methods
  • Are never satisfied with just 'OK'
Some chat contributors felt that we couldn't always make the same assumptions about managing students and managing teachers, though.  @michaelegriffin suggested that it is much harder with headstrong teachers than with generally manageable students and @pjgallantry summed it up with, 'Managing TEFL teachers is like trying to herd cats!!'  If that's the case, Paul, then I've really got my work cut out!! :-)


Does the DOS do it for you? by @JoshSRound
Differentiating Professional Development - the Principal's Role via @cioccas


  1. Another terrific #ELTchat summary, Andrea!

    You captured all of the major threads of the chat, as well as the overall spirit of the chat - and all without being a part of it 'live'! The list at the end is a very useful list of the characteristics and behaviours of both good managers and good teachers, demonstrating how so many of these are necessary in both roles.

    Well done!

  2. A gold medal-deserving summary! Great job Andrea!
    The topic was really interesting for me because although the aim was to explore what teachers can learn from managers, it of course gave us an opportunity to reflect on what skills we might have and could develop as a manager.
    You captured the main threads from the chat really well (thanks - I had to miss the last half of it!) - and give us a great list of key characteristics at the end.

  3. Fantastic summary. As usual, I wasn't able to attend due to the time difference. The following really sums up most managers that I have had: "@KatySDavies identified one of her bad managers as being someone who flicked between micro management and then gave no support at all when it was really needed." I feel that in my case this was down to the amount of stress my managers were under at the time.

    I'd like to add one more item to your list: Good managers and good teachers create environments where workers/students can follow their own path and explore opportunities.

  4. Hi Andrea!

    When you commented on the #ELTChat FB page about the summary never knew that you prepared this without being a part of the live chat! I think in terms of writing chat summaries I'm still with the only chat summary I wrote and that too with much effort. Now I know the value of practice - 16th summary and you can now breeze through it just like that. Thanks for bringing all those lively conversations among eltchatters alive in this summary. I never had the opportunity to work under an ELT manager yet. But have heard lot about DoS and rest of the pack. This summary neatly sums up things to be kept in mind by good managers.

    The Four Thought feature that you referred to I'd listened through my podcast subscriptions. While listening I didn't anticipate it to come back in the form of an #ELTChat summary.

    Well done. Hope the silver badge will soon give way to a gold one.


  5. Thank you all for the positive feedback. It's very gratifying to know that people are reading these summaries and finding them useful!

  6. Nice information, I like your post. I am just selected as a Ib Tutor in Melbourne and I was quite nervous regarding my first class but your post gave me amazing tips, Thanks.

  7. good manager uses innovative management software :) Thank you for the wonderful article!

  8. I think that one of the most important qualities of a good manager is being a good listener and speaker. Quality communication helps them understand their employees better and fulfill their needs, so the team works close together.