Exceptions are when the new manager has had actual management training before moving up, or has benefited from the gift of competent mentorship. If the mentoring continues after the promotion, the value is multiplied.
The great majority of entrants into management aren’t so lucky. They arrive unprepared in this strange new place, and some of them never really recover. Look around you. How many of the managers you encounter actually perform the work well?
In case your ability to evaluate managers has been dulled by years of exposure to the general run of the practice, let’s step back and freshen our perspective.
To clarify: in most situations, the manager is NOT supposed to be the most accomplished worker bee in the place. Your widget-making days are over now.
The responsibilities of managers vary limitlessly, so we’ll start with the universal basics: What is a manager supposed to do?
First of all, the manager is responsible. The buck stops right at the manager’s door. Actually, right inside the door.
If whatever needs attention doesn’t appear in your job description, then you’re responsible for communicating to someone about whatever part of it is on your turf.
The mechanics of your job operate somewhat against each other: It’s up to you to design and tend processes to enable good people to do good work; and to guide and discipline those good people to use the processes in doing the good work.
If the people aren’t good enough, it’s up to you to ensure that they come up to speed or are replaced.
Process constricts people’s freedom, and many of them don’t like that. Processes often turn out to be, or become, ineffective in achieving the desired outcomes. You’re the one who is to fix that.
This people factor turns out to be the most challenging aspect of the job to the newbie, and the part most likely to be permanized at an inadequate level of development.
Bluntly put, many managers never become competent at managing people.
They busy themselves with meetings, memos, managerial trivia and/or – most damagingly – with the task details of the operation.
It is common that managers, and not just new ones, avoid the higher and more uncomfortable issues in their role by spending their time on what is familiar. They’re either out there on the job with everyone else, or they’re critiquing those who are.
Most of our organizations are no longer in the old industrial model, the one where the boss enforced the one way everybody was to perform repetitive tasks.
This is not to dismiss the importance of the boss’s input to the organization of the work and the way it should be performed. And it certainly is important that he/she monitor the various quality measures of the operation.
Few things stay the same in today’s world, and work requirements now tend to be briefer, more complex and more tuned to demanding market requirements. Sure, the manager must know what’s going on out in the workplace – but the manager mainly is the architect of group outcomes that meet current, changing standards.
In this role, you don’t have time for the lesser duties. You train people for them, and that educator role is your prime duty when you’re the manager.
And there’s the rub. The main object of your attention, the top priority in your role, is that changeable, elusive, sometimes baffling and often frustrating invaluable asset . . . the human being.
Your job is to get people to consistently do the right things the right way, to learn and perfect work activities they’ve never done before and may not be too eager to learn and do now.
You can’t do it all yourself, so you have to delegate training and supervision as well as the work itself. You must learn all kinds of skills in communication, psychology, perception, persuasion. And broader, deeper and tougher stuff they never told you about back there at promotion time:
Patience and tolerance.
CONTRIBUTE: How were you introduced to management? How does that experience influence the way you manage people today?
SEE ALSO: The Hardest Thing You’ll Ever Dohttp://jimmillikenproject.blogspot.com/2010/02/hardest-thing-youll-ever-do.html