Unfortunately, the theory rarely bears any resemblance to the reality. Managers promoted not for their people skills, but for their technical abilities, can lack the desire or the training to do a good job. And managers who feel they can do better cast around for help in any shape or form. Hence the rise of the self-help book.
Winning With People, by John C Maxwell, is one such book to tap this vein. It is a collection of 25 principles for getting along better with people. It became a bestseller and Maxwell has gone on to become a leadership expert with a devoted following around the world. Without good relationships, he argues, life's successes will elude you.
The principles themselves range from the 'pain principle' and the 'hammer principle' through to the 'confrontation principle'. Don't be perplexed by the violent-sounding names - these edicts are essentially warm and friendly nuggets of advice. Take the 'gardening principle', which is all about cultivating a relationship, right from the tender sprouting of friendship to keeping it fresh and strong once it has grown. Or the 'celebration principle', which refers to the way successful friends celebrate each other's good times without succumbing to envy.
This is all sensible, if slightly schmaltzy, stuff; but what does it mean for the third sector manager? Essentially, it's about a boss and an employee having a 'win-win' relationship. If you need clarification, this is a rewarding kind of situation in which both parties give equally to each other. It's not simply a matter of swapping favours; it's more about the goodwill fostered between two people that means they will go out of their way to support each other.
This is a useful way to help get things done at work. But what happens if you really don't like the person who works for you? If you create a false sense of bonhomie, you'll be rumbled, and it can be tiring too - fake smiles are a strain on your facial muscles.
- Emma De Vita is editor of the books pages on Management Today