No Image Available

Seb Anthony

Read more from Seb Anthony

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Can managers MAKE people better at their jobs?


In response to an earlier question Graeme Kerr stated:

"A favourite of mine (if it is indeed a belief) would be the management belief that a key part of my job is to make my people better at their jobs."

In my 'umble this is most definitely a "belief" since I don't see any evidence that managers can MAKE their people better, or worse, at their jobs.

A ineffective manager may be able to lower his/her subordinates' interest in their work by micro-managing or failing to provide leadership; and an effective manager may give encouragement by providing effective leadership, giving useful feedback, etc., etc.

But can any manager MAKE his/her people work better, or worse? That is to say, will an effective manager always have nothing but highly focused/productive subordinates; and will an ineffectual manager be surrounded by clockwatching layabouts? I don't think so.

Could I be wrong :) ?

Paul Jupp

4 Responses

  1. ‘For the fish to bite it has to open its mouth.’
    The word ‘make’ might be interpreted in different ways here. ‘Make’ could imply that a manager can compel or force their staff to work differently in some way. For example, ISO9000 procedures clearly lay down how particular tasks and activities should be undertaken, none compliance might result in some form of escalating response ; 1. Feedback, 2. Re Training, 3. Reprimand, 4. Formal Reprimand, 5. Relocation or Dismissal. Is this process ‘making’ the worker perform better? If the ISO9000 procedure or indeed any working system are aspects of better practice or improved working behaviours this sequential process MIGHT be seen as ‘making’ the worker better at their job if you view feedback, re training, reprimand etc etc as an aspect of ‘making’, provided the worker responds in the way the manager intended. But the latter is not always guaranteed however.

    Another interpretation of ‘make’ might be where the manager ‘makes’ the conditions for the individuals to achieve an output or performance. The individual then in the context of their own motivation, boredom, commitment, apathy, enthusiasm, may then move away, towards or change not at all in relationship to the intended goal or behaviours.

    How are these two definitions different? It is a matter of perspective and expectation, but the behaviours might be the same. Clear goals, feedback, participation, reward can be seen as ‘making’ a better environment for the worker to perform in, but the expectation that this will automatically ‘make’ the worker better is wrong. The worker’s motivations, beliefs, situation, outlook might work against (neutralise if you will) any attempts by the manager to ‘make’ them better if that’s how you wish to view it.

    Clearly poor managers will not help, support or facilitate poor workers in the improvement of their working behaviour in terms of efficiency or effectiveness and they are likely to hinder, slow down or even prevent good workers achieving their full potential. Good management on the other hand might improve a poor worker by responding to their needs; providing goals, giving feedback, etc, perhaps even inspiring them. And a good manager will sustain and aid good workers in their continuing efforts and commitment.

    Can a manager ‘make’ people better at their work; no, can they ‘make’ conditions where people can become better at their work; yes. ‘For the fish to bite it has to open its mouth.’

  2. You know the answer to this one paul
    Of course you are right, you can only create the circumstances that will alow the person to do the job. If that is “making” then so be it. But, as I am sure you know Paul, you are perfectly correct in that you cannot make anyone do anything if you want it done properly, least of all perform to their best. Threats and the rest offer only a very short term solution and, in my experience, always come back and hit you in the face. It just sounds as though you have a Manager who needs to read his latest management book again.

  3. You’re all correct – but
    Having had the privilege of interacting with about 150 businesses, there is a management approach that can greatly improve the performance of an individual. Unfortunately, it is frequently missed as managers try to fit the person to a job role.

    Take the reverse approach and fit the role to the person. Take away from them the things that they are not good at and give them to someone else. Identify what that person is less well equipped for and pass those responsibilities on too.

    Eventually you will end up with people who enjoy what they do because they know that they do it well.

    Insisting that someone who is not mentally robust handles customer complaints as part of their role is a little like trying to grow roses in soil only fit for Alpines – you will always be disappointed with the results.

  4. Kung Fu
    Note: Kung Fu literally means HARD WORK – something you do well…


    I used to have a teacher that taught Wing Chun Kung Fu who said “Babies are born knowing Wing Chun, I help you rediscover that knowledge” – I don’t think that it is exactly the same for the mental and psychological factors that ensure that someone is ‘good at their job’, but the kernel or truth is there.

    A manager needs to provide the circumstances and environment that allow people to discover the best ways to do things so as to maximise their personal situation and that of their organisation.

    Of course, knowing it is the easy bit, doing it is the bit that keeps managers, trainers, consultants and academic theoreticians in business….

    All the best.



Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!