How Winnie the Pooh can mentor us to be better Managers…

What if I told you that many of you have already read a book that (read in a specific context) can teach you a lot about the importance of value-focus in becoming an effective Manager.

In this productivity-driven world, Managers often fall foul of developing targets and performance measures, without the necessary focus on being an ‘Active’ Manager. In other words, hiding behind a laptop, playing with fancy performance data and overlooking the importance of a floor walk or actively seeking out issues their team are facing.

Most people remember Winnie the Pooh and the tales of the Hundred Acre Wood with fondness, either as an adult reader or as a child. It is a renowned story for not only its creative and sometimes profound world but the deeper meaning of its characters. I would like to focus on a few of A.A Milne’s quotes on values and the human condition:

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”  WTP is teaching us about the value of proactive communication. If you wait for your team to come to you, it is likely that you will be fire-fighting issue after issue. Take the message to your people! By coaching, setting targets and following up with your team, you are bound to see more positive results.

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” We are always told that listening skills are important (take note of the word ‘skill’). Whether you’re in a one-to-one meeting or holding a team briefing, listening is key to making your colleagues feel valued. You learn more from listening than speaking.

“When you are a bear of very little brain, and you think of things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.” Build a positive team culture whereby characters, like WTP in this scenario, can be nurtured. If you build trust-relationships, in return you may experience dedication from your team in a collaborative environment.

Building on your skillset as a Manager is essential to successful Management – this is very different to having knowledge on your area. These WTP quotes speak of values and skills.

Knowledge is additive, we all build on previous knowledge learned and so this progresses quickly in this hyper-connected world. However, when it comes to values and skill, we don’t seamlessly build on what has gone before – we all start from scratch. So, even though we have studied what great leaders and managers have done in the past, it doesn’t materially improve our own skill acquisition. We have to work this through with practice and hard work. A.A. Milne’s tales teach us that sometimes working towards getting something you really want is even better than actually having it.

Knowledge, processes and metrics give us a great deal of power as a Manager, but the difference between a good Manager and a great Manager is value-led leadership, and skillset-building through sheer hard work.

“It remains that action will remove the doubt that theory cannot solve.”