Thinking about a business and management career?

May 9, 2019 - Shelagh Mclachlan

Shelagh McLachlan is currently the Marketing and PR Manager for Ayrshire College. She has had previous management roles in Business Management and Retail Management.

I’m going to ask you some questions to help you think through your decision to go down this career path and I’ll share some thoughts as I reflect on my career as a manager. 

Are you ambitious? I think I must have been as I started my management career at 20. I had worked hard at school and college and all I knew then was, I wanted a good job and to progress as far as I could with my career. I wasn’t going to settle in the one job all my life.

Do you like a challenge? It’s important to stretch yourself and push out of your comfort zones every now and then. Really develop your potential and have a hunger for learning something new.

Do you like variety in your job? I think I would get bored doing the same job all the time.  Management enables you to get involved in all aspects of the business which makes it really interesting.

When opportunity knocks, do you open the door? I firmly believe you should take every opportunity that comes along as you never know where it can lead to. I have travelled the world with my job, met lots of interesting people, learned new skills, achieved a masters degree, even started my own business, all because I said “yes” to the opportunity. 

Would you like to be leading a team that makes things better? I enjoy having a voice and not being frightened to be a disruptor. Everything I do is focused on making life better for our customers and it’s really satisfying to feel you have made a difference to their experience.

Would you like to gain an extra skill-set? As well as learning your ‘trade’, you will be learning how to manage your team. However, not everyone who is good at their job, can be a good manager, it is a particular skillset you learn from experience and training. Are leaders born or made? If you join a management course you will no doubt take part in discussions about this.

Meanwhile here is an interesting article about it – Are Leaders Born or Made?

When you find something you love to do, with hard work you become good at your job, and your drive and confidence soars – you want to harness that energy and take your job to the next level. It doesn’t always mean a management role – but it’s something to consider. If you’ve said yes, to some of the above questions, perhaps you are suited to a management career. Business Management was clearly the right thing for me to do and here are some of the things that inspired me.

10 things that have inspired me about managing a team? Role models are important and I can honestly say, I have learned so much from every line manager I have had. I look for behaviours that I like and I adopt them into my own style of management. ‘Behaviour breeds behaviour’  – I also have to remember I am a role model, and think about how I come across to my colleagues.

This me with my previous line manager Jackie Galbraith who is now the Principal of West Lothian College.

Empathy – My first job was a Management Trainee with a retail chain – here I spent time in each department learning about finance, ICT, HR, marketing, distribution, payroll, customer service. I learned the role of each of these areas, and how they interact to make the business work. It taught me to respect the contribution other teams make, and the impact on their process if I don’t do my job right.

Nurturing – if you look after your team well – they will look after your customers. Nurturing means caring about your team and working hard to develop their potential. Do this, and you get the best out of each person. It’s about making sure they have the tools they need to do their job well, being flexible, and identifying training to support them. The reward is watching them flourish.

Me with our former modern apprentice: Catriona Cook

Collaboration – my style of management is collaborative. I involve all the team in decision making and empower them to make decisions on their own. This helps them feel more involved in the team and proud of their achievements. It has also led to them respecting their colleague’s role in the team. They help each other by doing regular coaching sessions, and their sense of pride is palpable as they learn and perform together.

Diversity – I welcome different perspectives. So, I look for the best talent from all walks of life. I’m passionate about creating a diverse and creative team of people from all backgrounds. Treating people equally and with fairness and respect, is an important part of being a manager.

Quality – I’m driven by quality and in my team, this manifests itself as excellent customer service. I’m continually looking for ways to improve what we do. Technology has created high expectations from our customers, and the challenge is to keep up with the pace of change.

Innovation – I am always inspired by new ways of doing something. As a manager you must be thinking ahead and predicting what your customers will need to make their experience of your business more enjoyable, or how we can make it easier to do business together. I look up and out of my organisation for inspiration. Right now Amazon is a great inspiration – seeing how they are using artificial intelligence to suggest new products to customers based on their browsing history.

Partnerships  – find the right people who have the same objectives as you, develop a relationship and a shared understanding and build trust. I’ve found by doing this we can achieve so much more together.

Networking is vital for managers. Link with people who can help you with anything you may need to succeed. This could be colleagues, suppliers, competitors, media, people who could help find more customers. I use LinkedIn, attend conferences, participate in local events, or sponsorship opportunities to build my community. It helps to be naturally curious about your industry!

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Learning about networking at our ‘Expand Your Universe’ event

Keep learning so that you continue to develop your skills. CPD opportunities through my work made it possible to go back to education while not losing any precious time with my family. I achieved my degree through an Open University distance learning course, my Masters degree by attending university day release, management training through a company management development programme, and now most of my learning is done online. Changes in the law, keeping up to date with new trends, developing digital skills – the world of business continues to be exciting for me.

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Our latest training session – Refreshing our Brand

We have a new course HNC Business with Management starting August 2019.

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