Almost any company of any size has at least one manager; and most have several managers. But do we really need managers? Think about it. Managers are the highest paid people; and they really don’t DO anything, right? And most managers are jerks. So, couldn’t companies save a lot of money and just get rid of their managers? Wouldn’t such manager-less companies be better places to work?
Before I answer this question, we need to understand the nature of people. If you want to look at a manager-less organization, you have to look no further than the U.S. House of Representatives. Yes, there is a Speaker of the House; and there is a Majority Leader, Minority Leader, Political Parties, etc. But no Representative technically has any authority over any other Representative…. so you have 435 independent Representatives who often vote with their political party, but are all quite unproductive as a group. No private-sector business could operate like the U.S. House does and stay in business.
So, what is it about people that prompts a need for management? Why can’t you just hire the right people, and say, “your job is this. Do your job well, and you will get a raise. Do your job poorly and you will be fired.” So… who is the person that decides what their job IS? Who is the person who decides if they are doing their job poorly or well? And who is the person that will make the decision to fire the poorly performing employee?
What Does A Manager DO?
In very small companies, you will usually have at least one manager (the owner) who manages a small group of people (usually 10 or less). However, when a company gets much larger than this, you need to start creating a management structure.
Let’s first of all think about what a manager is supposed to do:
- Defines the type of number of staff needed
- Responsible for the budget discipline
- Responsible for hiring, firing and compensation
- Responsible for department performance
- Responsible to train staff members
- Responsible to mentor/coach staff
- Responsible for interdepartmental team building
- Responsible to coordinate with other departments
- Responsible to update upper management
- Responsible to update staff of company direction
- Reconcile team member disputes
When you multiply these duties by 6-10 people, you can see that management is a full-time job; if it is is done properly.
Where Do Managers Go Wrong?
We’ve probably all had an experience or two where our managers have hindered rather than helped us in the workplace. I have compiled a list of dysfunctions I have run across as a business owner and a coach. See if these sound familiar.
A Micro-Manager is usually someone who has recently been promoted from the ranks of the staff to now become a manager; and is confused about what a Manager is supposed to do. As a staffer, they most likely thought that their manager was not “in the trenches” with the workers enough; and didn’t know what was going on. They don’t want to be one of those hands-off managers, so they do the opposite and have their hands in everything. After all, they were promoted to manager because they were such a good worker… and their current staff cannot do their tasks as good as they did when they were a worker. Most micro-managers fail to do the tasks of manager because they don’t value those tasks; and tend to do for their staff; instead of train, mentor and coach their staff. The result is that their department is grossly inefficient, staff members are not properly developed, and quality staff members feel under-appreciated and underutilized.
The Low Energy Manager
Like the Micro-Manager, the Low Energy Manager is confused about what a manager is supposed to do. Instead of spending all of their spare time micro-managing, the Low Energy Manager simply does nothing; and hope their team performs so they look good. The Low Energy Manager will typically show up for meetings, but rarely provide input or take additional responsibilities in these meetings. The Low Energy Manager is fully passive. They will act when their staff or their boss want them to participate in some meeting, or dispute; but will play solitaire on their computer the rest of the time.
The Low Knowledge Manager
Every once in a while a manager will be put in charge of a group of people for which he/she has no knowledge of what his/her group does. This is not necessarily a bad idea, but can result in a less-than-desirable manager. A manager who has less knowledge than their staff on the core knowledge of what the staff does has to recognize that they will not be able to mentor or train their staff. That doesn’t mean they cannot coach and encourage their staff. A Low-Knowledge manager will need to develop an ability to know whether his/her team is doing their job well. They may even have to take a few basic courses to learn their staff’s duties just enough to know how to make reasonable judgments on work output. The good news about a Low Knowledge Manager is that they will not typically micro-manage. They will rely heavily on the expertise of their staff. In this case, the Low Knowledge Manager is more of an Administrator; than a Manager. If the Low Knowledge Manager feels insecure about their ignorance of their department’s focus, they may feel the need to pretend they have more knowledge than they do… and this is where they go wrong.
The Team Lead
It is common for companies to use team leads instead of managers. The company feels there is not enough for full-time management of a group of people, so the company expects the manager to do some of the work of the team. This is not a bad idea for a small team of 4; but when teams grow larger, team leads will not have enough time to manager their team because they are too busy doing their own work. This creates a type of unavailability to the rest of the team; and almost an odd type of rivalry between the team lead and other team members. I am not in favor of a “Team Lead” title; but would prefer a “Senior” title instead. The “Senior” title implies a seniority; and higher skill level, without pretending that this senior worker is actually filling the role of Manager or Leader.
The Absentee Manager
Much like the team lead manager, the absentee manager is doing so many other activities besides managing, they are not available to their staff. This unavailability usually results in a staff who feels they are on auto-pilot and not really held responsible for much of anything.
The Autocratic Manager
An Autocratic Manager is somewhat rare these days, but you still run into one every now and then. An Autocratic Manager is like a micro-manager, but they often will tell their staff exactly what to do; then they will have strict accountability measures to punish their staff if they don’t do what they are told. Not only do they want results, they want their staff to deliver those results a specific way without deviation. Staff under an Autocratic Manager will often feel like their creativity and innovation is stifled; and not valued.
The Friendly Manager
The Friendly Manager is afraid they will become an Autocratic Manager, and so their communication of expectations to their staff is quite weak. They rarely hold their staff accountable if they miss deadlines or deliver poor quality. Friendly Managers want their staff to like them; and so they are afraid they will do something that will upset staff members. If a staff member cannot do their work, a Friendly Manager will most likely do it for them and not say a thing. Friendly Managers seem like great people to hang out with, but often have lack-luster team performance.
The Insecure Manager
In some cases, managers become protective of their position. They feel like if they train, mentor and coach staff members that those staff members may take their job. Or they feel like their job as a manager is not that valuable. They then create a fictional image to their boss to maintain their position. The Insecure Manager will take credit for all of the work their team does; and they will withhold mentoring and coaching from their staff members. Such managers tend to stifle the growth of their team members and their company. Unfortunately, the Insecure Manager is a common manager dysfunction in large corporations.
Managing the Right Way
I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how NOT to manage. Now, let’s talk about how a manager ought to function in a company to make his company and his team prosper. A good manager understands that management hard work; and understands that they need to be proactive in the work of managing.
- Actively take a role in the positive development of team members.
- Actively work to ensure your team acts and functions as a high-performing team.
- Defend your team and take responsibility for anything that goes wrong in your team.
- If you have a bad team member, don’t whine to your boss; deal with bad team members proactively.
- Give team members credit for any positive accomplishment by your team.
- Proactively help your boss understand the function of your team to serve the company’s mission.
- Proactively engage your boss in discussion when you disagree with company direction.
- Develop leadership skills in select team members that have a desire to become a manager or leader.
- Don’t stare at a computer screen. Instead, communicate in person as much as you can with your team members.
- Make a concerted effort to encourage and praise your team members whenever the opportunity arises.
- Accurately communicate expectations to team members along with any accountability requirements.
- Coach team members and care about the success of individual team members.
- Be aware of project status; encourage your team when they fall behind; and reward them when they meet challenging goals.
- Set the vision for your team; and ensure your team members understand their individual roles in that vision.
By being selfless, you should rise to the highest ranks of a company that values genuine leadership traits in their managers.
Management and Leadership positions are desperately needed in all companies. Oddly, few academic programs can teach you all that you need to know in a management position. As a Business Coach, I evaluate existing and prospective leaders to see what areas of leadership are lacking in their character and how they show up as managers in the workplace. If you are interested in a no-cost initial consultation, I urge you to complete the contact form below to set up a phone call.
Note from the Author
My name is Jeff Schuster. I am a certified Life and Business Coach serving small business owners, corporate executives and others who want to transition from “expert” to “entrepreneur”. I have been a small business owner for most of my 30-years in the workplace. I grew an energy efficiency and renewable energy engineering and construction company from nothing to over $10-million/year and sold it in 2013. I now help other business owners make amazing progress toward their own dreams of business ownership independence and success.