Counselling for managers By Nigel MacLennan Gower 296 pages £24.99

Sooner or later you become exasperated: 'What is the problem here? Why can't you get on with the job? Do I have to do everything including wiping your noses?'

You feel better after such an outburst but it scarcely solves the problem. Eventually you have to face the fact that a more positive approach is necessary. That is where counselling may be useful.

Nigel MacLennan, in another of Gower's useful management workbooks, has little time for the soppy type of counselling that shows an undue interest in personal history. For him 'much of what Freud wrote was, well, less than useful'.

Mr MacLennan is concerned with helping people to deal with the current practicalities of their jobs and their lives.

He is also critical of much of what he sees as bogus in counselling training. He maintains that we all have many of the skills needed. What managers have to do is to be aware of them and how they can be harnessed to good effect. He has devised the skills training model which assumes that problems arise when skills are deficient. So a member of staff lacking what we understand as social skills has problems working with others. The author's approach is to endeavour to correct these deficiencies.

The skills are of two types, the interpersonal and the intrapersonal - those concerned with getting on with others and those arising from one's own innate abilities. Analysing just what is missing will go a long way to helping someone to overcome unhappiness in a job and consequent poor performance. A substantial part of the book is devoted to methods for doing this.

He is tough on the 'counselling mode' saying that no special behaviour is needed other then to be yourself. The stereotype of the leaning forward, faintly smiling counsellor will be seen through by the client who will suspect a lack of sincerity. This is especially so when the staff member already knows their manager to be a tough and plain speaking individual. So be real, whatever else.

But the counsellor's behaviour will make or break the exercise. Learning how to ask questions, how to involve the staff member to find out the nature of the problem and explore some potential solutions, is skilled work which requires above all the willingness to work unselfishly in the interests of another person.

The rewards for the manager are considerable if it means a long-standing problem is finally resolved.

The book itself, admirable for its realistic no-nonsense approach, is a little over-long for the average manager and there is some reiteration of ideas.

Mr MacLennan along with other authors of this type of book, favours the imperative tense, which may be positive but is a bit hectoring at times.

His use of cartoons will not please everyone. But overall this book can be highly recommended to any manager who is involved in supporting and developing other people.

Visiting senior fellow at Birmingham University's health services management centre and a former senior manager in the Bath health district.