Anything but a system

Many management systems are anything but a system. These organizations are a collection of people, habits, different behaviors and expectations. Management is driven largely by external behavior (The bigger boss) and motivation (One’s own). At work you often find too much competition between people which gets in the way of teamwork and collaboration.

What causes the disconnect?

Often it comes down to a confusion around what is expected. Many managers don’t take time to clearly communicate the desired state of a program or set of goals. In many cases these same managers have their own managers who are not clear either. The problem is often systemic.

The management system these days is fast

Managers often get caught in a spiral of competing requirements and demands. The BEST managers are able to deal with this effectively. They don’t take things personally and are able to step back in the heat of the moment and look at the big picture.

Do you want to be the BEST manager?

This is actually an important question to answer. Some people enjoy doing their work through others. Some people like to get the work done by themselves. First, decide which work fits you the best. You can not be successful at both. Management requires the ability to be in many ways an excellent traffic cop. It is about always directing, keeping momentum and energy flowing, resolving problems, and keeping emotions under control.

One way to approach the role of management

Learn to accept change! The world of work is about change. Great managers are able to accept change and lots of it. It is best to come to work daily expecting change and in fact thriving in it. When there is no change in organizational life, the entire system starts to die slowly. Creativity goes away, motivation is low and the environment loses all momentum.

Collaboration or competition?

Best managers enable their people to be creative, challenge the status quo and encourage collaboration. Are you encouraging collaboration or competition? On one hand people are told to work together and yet they are ranked and rated against each other. This encourages a culture of survival of the fitest. While some might argue this is healthy, I would say these cultures destroy morale over time and cause severe burn-out in the workplace.

Lack of self-awareness

Another factor which leads to poor management is lack of self-awareness. When people come to work, they bring all their baggage from home. They bring similar concerns of desire, the ability to get ahead, to be heard, to contribute. The work anxiety is greater for people who have not gotten to know themselves at a deep level. Best managers need to have a strong sense of who they are, what is most important, and how their most important values align with their work. Without this it is difficult to be open, receptive, and caring to others. Worst, when there is a crisis, which is often at work, these same managers become prison guards and not leaders for their people.

Best managers align organizational mission,values, and behavior

So many organizations make a big deal out of mission statements and then fail to communicate the meaning of these statements. Worse, there is little attempt to define and align organizational values around the mission. Best managers take their time to clearly communicate and role model how the organization’s mission and values align. Without this there is often no consistency between groups and between managers.

Best managers align their own values with the organization

It is critical for strong management to believe in and promote the organization’s direction. It is equally important to ensure that their own values align with the organization in the first place. It is easy to tell which managers lead with passion vs. which simply lead as robots. Their people can quickly tell the difference!

Best managers share their strategies and plans

This is done by carefully explaining the “Why” of organizational strategies and plans. I have observed that people can figure out the “How” if they know the “Why”. Too often managers give directions without reasoning what went into the decision in the first place. When peple feel like their managers don’t share with them strategiess they leave their hearts at home and just drag their bodies to work.

Have teaching sessions

To be a strong manager one must be comfortable with teaching. There are many opportunities to teach during the day as problems come up. Like children, adults need to understand mistakes which were made and possible better choices for next time. Poor managers rely on punishment and threat which only leads to more bad behavior out of fear.

Improving the organization takes work

It is often amazing to me how organizations and their leaders take serious actions to improve their products but do so little to develop the same people who produce these products. Best managers help their people to improve their work. This can only occur through mutual support and understanding. Also, strong managers meet often with their people. I used to use a simple process. I would meet bi-weekly with each staff member. I used to give them the first 30 minutes to discuss whatever they wanted to discuss. When it became my turn, I would ask 3 questions. With regards to your work, what do you want to do more of, less of, and how I can help? This process gave me much leverage.

Management is about leverage

Getting the best results with people is hard work. It takes patience, strong and frequent communications, and empathy in many cases. The biggest organizational problems can be solved by doing simple things over and over. This will go a long way towards resolving management problems at work. It will also enable people to be better followers and better leaders.

Craig Nathanson

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