Thursday, 19 August 2010

Are Your Managers Managing

Many managers fail to give proper attention to their core responsibility - achieving goals for their business by getting the best from the people they work with – because they're too busy working on tasks, duties and problems that really should be delegated to the people they manage.

Managers, up and down the business from Managing Director to Team Leader, usually have at least two jobs. The first, quite obviously is leading and managing their area of responsibility. The other involves performing tasks and duties that are part of the functioning of their department or business. For example: managing projects, selling, preparing quotations, defining specifications, dealing with minor problems, writing minutes, and bookkeeping. Andy Stanley encourages managers to “only do what only you can do” and delegate the rest. But far too often ineffective managers spend so much time doing things that other people can do that they don't spend enough time really making a difference.

Mistakenly they believe that only they should handle the more difficult and complex tasks and consequently burden their to-do list with things should really be delegated. Ineffective managers therefore lead teams that are far less productive than they could be because their manager is too busy with the wrong things to provide the necessary support and guidance.

So why do managers not do enough managing?
Many managers measure their contribution incorrectly and measure their usefulness by tracking the quantity work they get through each day - something that may have been valid before they became a manager. But an effective manager's contribution does not reap dividends overnight. Getting the best from your people and achieving important goals takes persistence, patience, and time. A manager who is drawn toward little things will find that this will be at the expense of the big things that ultimately make a long-term difference. So allow yourself time to make a big difference and measure your contribution against the big things.

I don't know how to be a manager
Only a minority of managers have received much management training as too often their business simply assumes that they will just figure it out for themselves. However, good management is not easy and there are very few people who have enough natural talent to figure out this complex discipline all on their own. If you give a person a choice of two tasks: one they feel comfortable with, and another where they don't really know how to do it, most people will gravitate toward the former; which explains why unskilled managers don't give top priority to their managerial duties.

So what should managers focus on?
The things that will improve the performance of their people, achieve important goals, and generally improve their business. Things like forward planning, quality one-to-one time with staff and colleagues, team meetings, listening to customers, gathering information about the market, setting clear expectations about direction and performance, driving through key improvements, helping people to enjoy their work, and making key policy-shaping decisions.

How can you change your focus?
Managers who don't do enough leading and managing because they're too busy with other stuff, inevitably realise that they're not keeping up with the workload and ask for help. Unfortunately the help they ask for usually isn't support in learning how to be a good manager, but the recruitment of junior managers who can help them with the managerial workload. Consequently a department that only needs one manager now has two or more, none of whom know how to do the job properly and spend most of their time doing something other than leading and managing. In fact an additional layer of management will probably just increase costs and slow down communication both up and down the organisation. So first of all find out how much leading and managing your existing managers do and if it’s not enough, don't recruit because it won't fix the problem.

Managers should always put their leadership and management responsibilities first and only once these have been properly attended should they go to work on the other more hands-on tasks and responsibilities. A manager who then finds that they now don't have enough time to complete these other duties should not compromise on being an effective manager, and instead do what good managers do and delegate the hands-on tasks they don't have time to do.

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