What is Management
What is management, anyway? I would define it as taking responsibility for the performance and output of another employee in a business setting. There is obviously some overlap between that and leadership, and in many cases we can use the terms interchangeably, but in the end it boils down to being responsible for those two things—performance and output—and it relates to doing so with people in a business setting.
Let me make six statements here to help define management further.
Aptitude for Management Comes from the Choices you’ve Made
I’ll start by noting that management is not natural, and there are no “natural born” managers. Good management comes primarily from who you are as a person, and if you’ve made the right choices as you’ve responded to the circumstances you’ve encountered, there is a higher likelihood that you’ll be a good manager. That’s the first point, and it’s a very important one.
Who you are as a person stems from the choices you have made in the circumstances you have faced. You have had precious little choice about some of those circumstances, but you have had all sorts of freedom in deciding how you would respond to those circumstances. All those little choices added together make up who you are.
So you live with that reality. It is what it is, and there’s no changing the past. If the few big decisions and the many little decisions you have made were good ones, you’re probably closer to being a good manager out of the gate and maybe all it will take is some good advice from a few trusted friends, along with a huge dose of more self-awareness.
At the other end of the spectrum, you might be a downright evil person soon to be an evil manager. I’m not worried about that, though, because there’s no way you’d be reading this in the first place. What’s more likely is that you are ready, and just need a little help, or you aren’t ready but are quite willing to start making better choices.
I have to say that from a cold, statistical viewpoint, the odds of you changing significantly as a person just because you are a manager are not all that good. The additional power and isolation that will come your way will be severe tests of your character. But if you’ve been selected for management by a good manager, you can take solace in the fact that he or she sees something in you that you may not even see in yourself. This is good news, and it means that maybe you can grow into this position that is being carved out for you.
On the other hand, if you received a battlefield promotion (defined as nobody’s first choice until the person who was the first choice got killed unexpectedly and now you are the first choice), then all bets are off. Or if you were chosen for a management position by someone who is a bad manager, it’s just as grim. Not just because their judgment is suspect, but also because they won’t necessarily support your new management role properly.
All this to say that you have to be ready, nearly ready, or willing to make a lot of changes to be ready if you want to be a good manager, and that what you’ve done since you started making choices has a lot more to do with your aptitude for management than anything your DNA might say.
If You Have made Good Choices, Management is not Exclusionary.
I want to continue the thinking above but take it in a different direction. Unless you are a terminally evil person, there is nothing about who you are that disqualifies you from being a good manager. There is no personality type that must be present for you to be effective as a manager. Your personality type definitely shapes how you will manage people, but you can be effective in that role with many different styles.
This is a very important point, and here’s another way to see it. There are very specific management jobs that will exclude the vast majority of the population, but for every management-ready individual, there is some management role they can fill. For instance, managing an NFL team will require someone who is not afraid of conflict as they shape the effort of huge egos and strong-willed stakeholders (owners, fans, media, etc.). That’s just part of the job, and putting a conflict-averse manager in there is a sure recipe for failure. But managing a classroom of special needs children doesn’t require that so much as it requires empathy and patience. If we swapped roles between these two people, they both would fail, not because they aren’t good managers but because the specific requirements of that management role weren’t taken into account when the managers were considered.
What this means is that some managers fail because of the fit and not because of their aptitude. It also means that in the right circumstance, a good person—no matter the personality traits—can manage well if attention is paid to that fit.
Management Does Not Make You Special
There’s a strange hierarchy built into the socio-economic structure of the “developed” world. If you want to make a lot of money, you either have to be one of the lucky few entertainers or athletes inexplicably lauded by the unwashed masses, or you have to manage people. Left out of this mix is the craft or skill person who accepts a management job because of the money and prestige that comes with it, never mind that they are a terrible fit.
What this heading should have said, really, is this: Being a Manager Will Make You and Others Think You Are Special, but You Really Aren’t. What I’m saying is that management should be viewed as a job. That is, it’s a job that involves stepping out of the details, looking at trends, acting like a coach, and all the other things that come with it. But that’s not necessarily more important than what the people on your team do, and you need to disabuse yourself of that idea or you’ll be haughty and unapproachable.
If I could wave a magic wand, there would be two career paths—one for skill/craft and one for management—and given individuals could move up each path without crossing over to the other. In that world, some skill/craft employees would be making more money than the managers who are responsible for them. Who cares? This notion that money moves in lockstep with your ascent on the corporate ladder has left us with a lot of idiots doing what they think is management only because that comes with the higher salary and they can’t ignore it entirely. If you can’t manage people well, you shouldn’t be a manager. It’s that simple, really. And you could even extrapolate that and say that if you can’t manage people, you don’t have any business owning a company that employs them.
The Title Must Flow from the Activity
When you think about it, I believe you’ll agree that there should be no surprises in management. Kudos, disciplinary actions, promotions, demotions, labor contraction. All these things should be largely expected when they happen (except perhaps to the clueless crowd).
Looking more specifically into promotions, ask yourself this: when the people who work around you found out that you were being promoted to a manager, did they scratch their heads and say: “Wow. I wonder where that came from. What an odd choice.” Or did they nod their heads and note the decision, even just in passing, as one that made sense.
You’re always aiming for the latter. Great managers are generally great managers before they ever have the title. They’re like an inner tube you’re trying to hide from your brother by submerging it. Eventually, you get tired of holding it down and the inner tube (or the truth, in this case) pops to the surface.
Managers manage. Leaders lead. It generally happens or it doesn’t, and the title is almost immaterial. If you’re promoted to management for the right reasons, you’re already doing it, even if you don’t recognize it.
This is all really good news for most of you, because it means that all you have to do now is maintain the same direction, learn the formal parts of what is expected of you, avoid the land mines, and not let your head get too big. (I’m going to help you with that last part.)
People Must Know You Are Managing Them
Similar to the idea that there are few surprises in management decisions, there are absolutely no secrets when it comes to who people are reporting to. There may very well be significant confusion about it, but there are no secrets. If people don’t know you are managing them, well, then you aren’t managing them. Period.
I’ve asked more than 14,000 people to name their boss. That’s always struck me as a pretty simple question, right? You’d probably agree with that. They do, too, until they have to answer it.
Most people give me an immediate answer, and they identify one person by name. This indicates that there is a clear reporting structure in that particular management environment.
Others pause, think a little, and then finally give me a name, and that’s a sure indication of some problem in the environment. Listen, asking someone to identify their boss is a lot like asking them who their Dad is. Either you know or you don’t, and there shouldn’t be much delay between the question and the answer.
Worse yet is the person who pauses, and then names several people. That’s no good, folks. What it generally means is that no one is managing them at all.
So here’s the point: someone cannot promote you to a management role and keep it a secret. Either you are officially managing people or you aren’t, and if you are, they must know that you are. When someone tries to promote you to a management role but doesn’t want the people “below” you to know that, there’s a very good chance that what they are really doing is making you responsible for the results without giving you the authority to shape them.
As Dr. Phil would say, “Let me know how that works out.”
There is No Official Management Without Power
That leads us to the final point, and that’s the relationship between your management role and the power that comes with that role. The essence of management certainly isn’t power, at least wielded power. It’s more about influence, which in itself is power, but it’s more the ability to instill in people a legitimate desire to follow your leadership.
Real management, then, is about how you act and what you say and what you ignore and how you treat people and all those other things. But as critical as all those things are, and as well as you might handle them, you really aren’t managing people in the truest sense of the word unless these things are largely true of your role.
First, you are responsible for hiring the people you manage, even if the decision must be approved by someone else. Or at least you are a significant part of the approval loop.
Second, you make the decisions or at least the recommendations for the compensation of the people you manage.
Third, if the people you manage receive performance reviews, you are the person who gives them, and if someone else attends the performance reviews, they are there merely as a silent witness.
Fourth, you have the authority to dismiss someone you manage, even if the decision must be approved by someone else.
Be sure to look a little deeper under the title you’ve just been given to see if it’s really management or not. If these things aren’t true of your new role, you ain’t managing, baby. And if that’s just now become apparent to you, ask for a clarifying conversation with the person who promoted you and don’t proceed until you know what you’re getting into.
When you’re ready, the next thing you’ll want to do is take a deeper look at why you were promoted. Understanding that will help you understand the things that happen early in your career as a new manager.Download Full Article (863 KB pdf file)