WWND? Seven lessons from a great manager

3 minute read

This post was written by Richard Sved and first published on 3rd Sector Mission Control.

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked under some very good managers. But I’ve had one manager who was great. And he was also a great teacher.

His name is Neil, and this blog only covers a fraction of the many things I learned from him.


1. Give credit for the work of the people you manage

Ever seen your manager claim credit for something you’ve done? I have, and it’s not nice. Neil never did that. Not once. And more to the point he unscrupulously acknowledged my efforts whenever he could. I found this had a particularly validating effect on me.


2. Thank regularly, but thank sincerely

I used to play my own little game at the end of meetings with Neil. I would try to be the last person to say “thank you”. I rarely managed it. What’s more, I could tell he meant it, because of his honesty and sincerity, and because it was reflected in the credit he gave me for my work, as mentioned above. I’ve talked about thanking supporters well in other blogs. Thank your colleagues well for the part they played too!


3. Listen more than you speak

Neil was a fantastic listener. Meetings with him were tremendously balanced, and I felt that I had the space to contribute,  that my thoughts were respected and taken on board. Ever been in a meeting in which you couldn’t get a word in? How did that feel? I learned from Neil to try not to do that to others.

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4. Think about the bigger picture

For many months, Neil had a flip chart up in his office that just had the words “Is it systemic?” written on it. I used to tease him about it, but I soon learned how important it was, particularly in relation to charities. Do the projects that you run embed sustainable change in the long term? And how do the interventions fit in with the world around them? These are big questions but you need to be able to answer them.


5. Take time to reflect thoroughly and positively

I’ll never forget my first appraisal with Neil. I had done some thinking in preparation, but this was dwarfed by the amount of reflecting he had done. The appraisal was lengthy, but focused, constructive, and was a clear illustration of the thought he had put into how I was doing my work. All the time I thought he was just listening, he was actually really thinking. He also taught me to reflect on the things I had done well, rather than just beating myself up when I felt I was remiss. Do we reflect positively enough on our day’s work? Do we celebrate and learn from our successes enough?


6. Benefit both from mentoring and being mentored

Neil taught me the benefit of being mentored, but in his own quest for personal development, he also taught me how much a mentor has to gain and learn from the process, and I have made sure that I have carried on both as a mentor and mentee ever since.


7. Think about what a wise person would do in the situation you’re facing

Why is this blog called WWND? Well, it’s been many years now since I was managed by Neil. But when I am confronted with a tricky problem, I always ask myself “What Would Neil Do?” He is still the wise man sat at my shoulder. I bet you have your own Neil. Use them, even if they’re not in the room with you. It really helps.

Neil, this blog is for you. Thank you.


Anna Bland

Anna previously worked for CharityConnect, our online community for charity professionals. She's passionate about women’s rights, loves documentaries and drinking excessive amounts of tea.

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