I’ve been in the workspace for (too) long and interacted with many people at various levels with different approaches towards managing their work or their teams. Very few people in command were leaders, the majority were managers in the traditional acceptance of the word: controlling and directing.
Maybe I’m too idealist, but for me, mastering a field and leading people to a common goal, are 2 separate verticals in the workspace, based on different qualities and behaviours.
Whilst this is not a bad thing per se, the nature of the workspace has evolved with the technological progress and the environment is no longer predefined, but rather volatile and fluid. Behaving in this old school manner simply doesn’t work in today’s reality.
A pattern I noticed in most organisations is to promote the people that are experts in some areas to a management role based on that expertise and become responsible, all of a sudden, for the results of an entire team which requires a complete different set of skills to handle. Or, even more strange, promoting the experts to a management role without a team to manage only because that is the next level in the Org Chart.
I’m not saying that someone who is expert in their area cannot be a good manager or that a manager shouldn’t have knowledge or expertise and just focus on soft skills. A blend of both is needed, but at the end of the day, the performance of each is assessed based on different indicators.
Coming back to the title of this article, when it comes to managing people, I see an upgrade being needed for the traditional definition. Like we do with our phones to keep them up to date.
Instead of directing shift the focus on guiding, influencing and collaborating as an approach in the continuous changing workspace. This is no longer a one-man (woman?) show who knows it all and has all the answers in a stable and predictable environment. I’m aware there are some cultures more hierarchical than others where people expect direct guidance from their superiors, but even so, knowing how to address to an audience in a way they can relate to is a sign of flexibility.
Instead of controlling shift the focus on encouraging learning, creativity and ownership. There are still too many managers out there who think their job is to micromanage their teams and tell them how to do their job. This is demotivating and keeps everyone in their limited designated boxes without possibility of growth which is bad for the individual and the organisation who needs to stay competitive. Nurturing cooperation and share of ideas and experiences brings the best possible outcome and empowers everyone to participate and continue learning. And this is one way of driving progress for both people and companies.
Instead of maintaining rigid systems and structures in place focus on building relationships with people and challenging the status quo. Being inclusive, focusing on innovation and new ways of performing faster and better rather than following predefined paths to just deliver, means staying competitive on the market for both people and companies. And this is another way of driving progress.
What I want to reinforce with this article is the importance of human side in a managing position, not just the expertise. Managers should be the promoters of personal and professional development, to enjoy learning and also encourage others to do the same, to be inclusive and mindful of other’s perspectives, to challenge, but also to empower people to become better and better.
If you are one or aspire to be one, please lead by example and remember the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Which means that a team working in synergy (one of my favourite words) is far more valuable and effective than a team which only executes the directives of one decision maker.