I remember being taught that the role of a manager was to "accomplish work through others."
I've been thinking about that lately, as we move from one year to the next. For most managers, this time of year involves things like strategic planning, goal setting, performance reviews, etc.
For many of us, the business cycle begins again, just as the year begins again. And it offers us an opportunity to reset, try something new, make some changes.
Which brings me back to the role of managers... Is it time to rethink things? What does it mean to "accomplish work through others" and how does one best do that? And is that definition still even appropriate?
Are managers: leaders, teachers, guides, authorities, coaches, arbitrators, directors, cheerleaders, strategists, administrators, substitute parents, process designers, communicators, supporters, inspirers, influencers, uniters, community builders?
Some, all or none of the above? And this list isn't even complete!
While in the past, management models were more authoritarian, hierarchical and paternalistic, numerous blogs and books are promoting a move to more collaborative, collegial and interdependent models for businesses and management.
As Warren Bennis states in the foreword to Firms of Endearment:
"True leaders focus less on their own self-interests than on the interests of the whole. They believe that the full well-being of one depends on the well-being of all."
And that means rethinking the role of manager.
A whole new focus on the employee
In terms of managing employees, I think that invites managers to a whole new focus on the employee, their well-being and development. It means we need to foster self-knowledge, candor and maturity in ourselves and in our employees.
We need to find ways to help each person discover and leverage their strengths, as well as acknowledge and support their weaknesses, as individuals and as members of a community.
But that sounds like a pretty tall order.
So where do you begin? Before you run out and ditch all your tried and true employee management processes and techniques, think instead of adapting or transforming them. There are excellent talent management systems and tools like Halogen's that can help make this transformation easier. What may need to change is how we use them and view our roles, both as managers and employees.
This new business model encourages much more personal responsibility, and requires ongoing personal development. It means ongoing feedback and recognition, 360 degree reviews and self-evaluations become even more important. Goal setting and development planning need to be a collaborative, ongoing exercise.
Work assignments need to consider each individual's strengths and passions, as well as their challenges and limitations. And performance management becomes more about fostering someone's growth and success than subjectively rating and ranking employees.
Manager, know thyself
Perhaps, what you need to do most as a manager is know yourself. That means having some humility. With humility, I'm able to honestly admit to myself and others what my strengths are, what my weaknesses are, and what my limitations are.
Maybe one of your most important roles as a manager is to model this for your employees. Then hopefully, you can help your employees do the same. You can help them discover their true passion, motivations, giftedness and weaknesses.
And you can work with them to set them up for success by leveraging their strengths and encouraging their ongoing development, while all the while admitting, none of us will ever be great at everything.
As a manager you can help your employees work as part of a community. True organizational strength comes from the sum of its parts, not the success of particular individuals. While coming to understand our interdependence can seem like a weakness, it truly is our greatest strength.
So what about you? How do you see your role as manager? Are you finding ways to support the well-being of all?