Much has been written about the difference between leaders and managers.
“Leaders are people who do the right thing,” note leadership experts Warren Bennis and Joan Goldsmith in Learning to Lead: A Workbook on Becoming a Leader (Basic Books, 2003). “Managers are people who do things right.”
As they further explain: “To manage means to bring about, to accomplish, to have charge of or responsibility for, to conduct. Leading is influencing, guiding in a direction, course, action, opinion. The distinction is crucial.”
While this distinction is correct, it has unintended negative effects. Some leaders now believe their job is about coming up with big ideas. They dismiss executing these ideas, engaging in conversation and planning the details as mere “management” work.
Worse still, many leaders cite this distinction as the reason why they’re entitled to avoid the hard work of learning about the people they lead, the processes their companies use and the customers they serve.
Thousands of leadership-development courses are available, and people usually become excited when they’re fast-tracked for leadership programs. But you rarely hear anyone voice excitement about receiving training to become a better manager.
Have we become so enamored with the mythos of “leadership” that we ignore the rudiments of rock-solid “management”?
What Managers Actually Do
According to traditional management theorists, managers are supposed to plan, organize, coordinate and control. In truth, the pressures of reacting to urgent matters supplant most reflection and planning.
Managers respond to daily crises, take on too much work, operate with continuous interruptions and make instant decisions. They have no time to step back and consider bigger issuesa problem that often causes them to act with superficial, fragmented information.
In a classic November 2003 Harvard Business Review article, “Manager’s Job: Folklore and Fact,” Mintzberg outlines 10 daily management roles that fall within three broad categories:
1. Interpersonal Category (3 Roles)
2. Informational Category (3 Roles)
3. Decisional Category (4 Roles)
If you want to improve your managerial skills, take a good look at what actually happens each day:
5 Effective Managerial Mindsets
Mintzberg further describes five critical managerial mindsets:
Expecting managers to excel in all five managerial mindsets misses Mintzberg’s point. Managers are people, not superheroes. But when they’re at least somewhat familiar with each way of thinking, they can more easily recognize which skills are needed and appropriately switch mindsets.
The Care and Feeding of Managers
CEOs who wish to retain top managers need to see them as important resources and nurture them accordingly. Managers are the single greatest factor in retaining employees (Gallup Organization, State of the American Workplace, 2012).
CEOs should provide their managers with development opportunities and professional coaching. Companies that offer coaching enjoy marked performance improvementsnot only from managers, but from those who report to them, as well.
Executive coaching grants managers time to practice introspection, which is necessary for ongoing learning. Job pressures frequently drive managers to take on too much work, encourage interruptions, respond quickly to every stimulus, seek the tangible and avoid the abstract, and make decisions in small increments. Effective managers consciously deal with these pressures.
Becoming a More Effective Manager
Conquer the challenges associated with managerial demands by developing introspection skills and insights:
Schedule time for the tasks you believe are most important. Don’t let daily pressures crowd out time for reflection, innovation or other critical values.
If you need to have a conversation regarding your performance improvement give me a call.
You can reach me at: 949-721-5732.