The relational manager

The relational manager: transform your workplace and your life

Michael Schluter and David John Lee
Lion Publishing, 2009, £8.99, Pbk., 186p., ISBN 9780745953687

Michael Schluter is Chief Executive of Relationships Global, which seeks to promote the relationships approach in organisations and at a policy level across the world. David John Lee, senior writer with the Haggai Institute for Advanced Leadership Training, has collaborated with him on a number of projects as well as producing a number of books of his own.

The authors argue that society is a network of relationships, private and professional. If those relationships don’t work, quality of life goes down and organisational performance suffers. They believe, therefore, that management is all about relationships and this is reflected in the chapter titles: relational thinking; relational proximity; relational time management; relational conversation; relational finance; relational office culture; relational systems; relational work-life balance; relational travel; relational conflict resolution; relational pensions; relational character. The book concludes with a relational rule of life.

The personal touch is identified as a key aspect of relational management – face-to-face meeting. Management by wandering around (MBWA) is a good management technique: meeting colleagues at their workplace and discussing their problems.

The disadvantages of e-mail are discussed. “The average email is short (making it liable to be abrupt). It is instantly answerable (meaning we’re more likely to dash off a reply without thinking what we’re saying). And it has not inherited from letter-writing the formalities of politeness (meaning we may fail to signal due respect for the recipient).” The chairman of a leading FTSE-100 company never commits any really important communication to e-mail, preferring a handwritten note by courier. It’s more secure and never gets lost amid the email ‘noise’.

The authors quote Professor Clive Holtham of City University London as saying “People are saying to me that the most important technology for knowledge-sharing is the coffee machine.” Certainly tea and coffee breaks at university could be very productive and I recall that when I was librarian at the British Institute of Management (now the Chartered Management Institute) senior staff would get together on Friday afternoons for tea/coffee and exchange of ideas.

The authors state that Sunday working has made it extremely difficult to spend shared time with others and comment that this is now just as likely to happen to lawyers, accountants, librarians and health professionals. It is stated that the UK is far ahead of its European partners in encouraging Sunday working. In 1999 thirty nine per cent of UK employees did Sunday work compared with twenty three per cent in Germany, twenty five per cent in France and fifteen 15 per cent in Spain. (Source: Eurostat 2000).

As the sub-title suggests, the book is not confined to management at work but includes discussions of such matters as family life and shopping as a social activity.

Although published by Lion, the book does not mention Christianity. However, both authors appear to be Christians and the book presents a Christian approach to management and home life. Christianity is about relationships: relations with God and with other people. On page 20 there is a reference to an American retailer called The Container Store which has a number of simple operational principles, one of which is ‘Treat people as you want to be treated’. This could have come straight from the sermon on the mount (Matthew 7:12).

This excellent book has one major flaw. There is no index, meaning that useful information on many subjects cannot easily be found. Just a few examples are: advertising, budgeting, communication, customer relations, environmentalism, family relationships, forgiveness, friendships, incentive schemes, matrix style management, meetings, open plan offices, prioritising, reporting, sexual misconduct. When will publishers appreciate how much a good index can add to a book?

Contributed by: Kenneth G.B. Bakewell, MA, MIMgt, FCLIP, Emeritus Professor of Information and Library Management at the Liverpool John Moores University and a CLIS Life Vice-President.