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Have We forgotten About Management?

July 28th 2017 - Friday

All the latest books, mine included, talk about leadership and describe it in many different glowing terms. In my book ‘Leading and Managing A Global Workforce’, I spend many pages talking about the role of leaders – basically saying that they are in the forefront – they are the visionaries and show the way.

But what about the poor managers – they are caught in the middle. The Leader decides what is to be done and the manager is the person who has to make sure that the staff implements the leader’s vision. As I write this, I am thinking about the difference between the General and the Staff Sergeant in the armed forces.

Managing is a tricky business and we are so enamored with calling everyone leaders that we seem to have forgotten how to teach managers to manage effectively.

It is the primary job of the manager to learn how best to instruct, train, motivate and hold accountable the staff responsible for getting the job done. No easy task!

People are different. How can you treat them as uniquely as they deserve while also being fair? What exactly does fair mean in this context?

 

The Role Of Cultural Differences    

Think about cultural differences with me for a moment. Depending on where in the world you were raised and went to school significantly determines how you expect to be managed.

If, for example, you come from a country where rigid obedience to the rules is demanded and primary education is by rote memorisation, you expect your manager to tell you exactly what to do and when to do it. In all probability, you are not a self-starter or comfortable with taking creative risks.

On the other hand, if you were raised here in Silicon Valley and went to California’s public schools during the last twenty years, you may have a false sense of your own importance and worth and might very well resent anyone telling you exactly what to do and when to do so.

Now, imagine having to manage people from cultural backgrounds as vast as these two I’ve just described – as well as many from all places within those two extremes.

You must learn to manage them differently. Hopefully, over time, you and your staff learn how to find a middle ground and can work well with each other. This takes a lot of communication, conflict resolution, empathy, trust and understanding.

What about men managing women, or women managing men? Aren’t there (even today) intrinsic problems to be resolved so that there is mutual respect?

Think of the manager as the foster-parent or stepparent to very vulnerable children. Rules have to be followed, things have to get completed in a timely manner, but if you use too heavy a hand, you frighten – get passive aggressive resistance – or shoddy workmanship. If you are too lenient – with children (or staff) not accustomed to being left alone, they don’t know what to do and when and suffer from existential anxiety.

 

The Current Role Of The Manager

The Leader doesn’t necessarily have to think about the individual differences of the working staff – but the manager does. He doesn’t get the work done without having this very personalised knowledge of what will work with his staff.

Remember, we are all talking about staff that are educated, intelligent, and has the freedom to quit the job and move elsewhere if they don’t like it here.

We are no longer managing slaves. The whip doesn’t work. We are no longer managing people who are terrified of what will happen to them if they lose their jobs – our staff members know they can go elsewhere.

Yet, we throw people into positions of management because they were good individual contributors and we want to reward them with a promotion. Too often, this is throwing someone who doesn’t know how to swim directly into the deep end of the pool.

When I coach managers or conduct management training workshops, the most frequent questions asked by those I am counseling/training/coaching have to do with how they motivate and hold people accountable. They want to know what techniques to use to figure out how best to be helpful – not hurtful – while getting the best out of their direct reports.

Most of all they want to know how they can make others successful – because that’s what makes them successful.

 

Creativity

And, best of all – how do managers get the “deliverables” delivered on time while at the same time encouraging new and creative ideas to emerge? When I conducted my Managing for Creativity research with 50 C-level executives, most of them blamed their middle managers and their HR personnel for stifling creativity. There were a few reasons offered by these C-level executives for the stifling. They included insecurity on the part of the manager, fear that the staff person would “look too good”, and an inability to recognise a good idea when it was offered.

I add to that the fact that most organisations have a ‘turn a blind eye’ policy, allowing staff a certain percentage of time to work on their own projects. The problem with this approach is that those that should be informed rarely learn early enough what the creative staff member is developing to encourage and enable them to get the resources they need. Good ideas can die and bad ones can be worked on, wasting valuable time.

A friend of mine, hearing me speak on this topic added that the manager is in the middle – he or she doesn’t have the extra time to allow for the experimentation because it is the manager’s job to get the work completed in a timely manner.

 

Managers Are As Important As Leaders

So, maybe the leader has all the glory. But without the manager, the leader is leading an empty team. More time needs to be spent on actual management training – and less time on whatever the current fad might be. How do you train your managers?

 

BY: ArLyne Diamond Ph.D. is an Organisational Development and Human Resource Consultant with over 30 years experience. She can be reached at ArLyne@DiamondAssociates.net.

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