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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Management Power, Management Behavior

“You can’t run this place by committee.”
     That was the corporate president, responding to the manager of a division of the company.
     The manager, one month into his first job at this level, had just described how he had directed the department heads to prepare for him “blue sky” budget proposals. The idea was to include in early budget planning a look to the future – what the department manager envisioned as investments for growth over the succeeding few years.
     The president was not persuaded by the idea. The new division manager lost the job a few months later, returned to his previous position as a supervisor and soon left the company.
     A successor, more in the authoritative mold of the president, lasted a year before being flat-out fired. His peremptory style had resulted in unionization of every unit in the division.

     In another situation, a school district is going through a long period of turmoil because of the superintendent’s abrupt, one-way actions at a time of change and stress. A citizens' group has submitted petitions for a recall election of three school board members, including the chairman.
     The group wants the superintendent fired.
     The teachers' union is complaining publicly about significant changes in policy and practice that have been imposed without consultation.
     A governor is about to complete eight years in office, a period pockmarked with ugly disagreements and stalled progress. The man has a take-or-leave it style, along with a habit of unbridled verbal abuse of anyone who disagrees with him.
     So here’s a question for you: How do you manage? More basically, what do you see as a manager’s basic responsibility? And based on that, what pattern of behavior do you consider appropriate for a manager?

     Strong decision-making was the key factor in each of the situations noted above. There is no question that a manager must be decisive. There is a real question, though, about how the manager’s decisions are arrived at and how they are framed and delivered.
     The popular admiration for fast decision-making often is misplaced. Good managers don’t stall under pressure, but they shoot from the hip only when their seasoned judgment equips them with sufficient assurance.
     More often, their first response is inquiry: What is going on here? What do I need to know in order to make a sound judgment? Who has the information, or where is it?
     With practice, the inquiry doesn’t have to take long. The seasoned manager knows just what questions to ask, and just how much to rely on incomplete information in the answers.      
     Some questions are absolutely required in any management situation. Those are the ones that clarify the circumstances, determine what has happened and develop or reveal options for decision.

    Less fundamental questions serve a variety of purposes. Some are asked to gauge the capacity of people to handle challenges on their own, or to determine the nature and extent of backup or assistance they might need.
     There also are questions whose real purpose is to guide the thinking of the people being asked.
     That touches on the most fundamental function of the role of management. Most managers occupy positions that intermingle functional responsibilities – producing individual work results – with the practice of pure management.
     For that reason, real management often is obscured, and equally often is impeded, by the person’s need to regularly engage in non-management activities.
     As a matter of fact, many people with management responsibilities don’t do them well because their other work has prevented them from learning true management in the first place. They may never really progress beyond that point through their careers.
     That is because the real job of management can easily get lost in the busy work of daily problem-solving and decision-making. You can be occupied in useful activities full-time without ever rising above the middle level of managerial accomplishment.

     Real management is in the careful development of the much more basic structures and practices that underlie all success in the workplace.
     It’s in two related areas:
     First: Establishing and maintaining workplace processes that set up good people to do good work.
     Second: Training and supervising people to use the processes most effectively.
     So the competent manager has analytical and organizational skills as well as those of communication, collaboration and leadership.
      It’s not an easy job, which is why we don’t see it done well frequently enough.
     The poor management displayed in the opening examples can arise from one or more failings, but the over-all syndrome is a mixture of impatience and the distortion of authority by ego.
     Such a manager sometimes has a good personal grasp of the work, but can’t empathize with those who, for whatever reason, don’t match the manager’s skill level. Sometimes it’s a overinflated sense of self-importance.
     Whatever the source, the behaviors are counter to good management. They damage and diminish the productivity of people treated that way. Skills development and problem solving suffer. Turnover is high. Costs go up.
     Authority is the child of responsibility. The manager who understands that is more builder than director, and applies authority accordingly.

YOUR TAKE: Describe your favored form of management, and the behaviors that result from it.

SEE ALSO: Building Alliances


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