Over the last few weeks I covered some of the key elements of effective managerial performance. Today I want to cover some important things about being a person in a management role; a management role that is specific to you, in this organisation, at this point in time.
In taking up managerial roles we need to be, above many other things, constant and reliable, so that others can depend on us. Both the people who have employed us to deliver certain outcomes, and the people who are in our team and who work for us. The best managers are strongly committed to achieve the required outcomes and it is important not to change or redefine this task. However, the way in which we deliver the task is infinitely variable and will depend on a range of factors. We need to be very flexible in our methods and behaviours, experimenting with what works, sussing out team members and playing to their strengths. The best managers also factor in the external context and the expectation of others in the organisation. If we listen to our team, the customer and have great awareness of our environment we will develop, adjust and learn as we go along, and this is much more likely to get results than just plugging away with a notion we learnt from a text book. Keep on checking back with your team, and with reality. Does the method work? Are you getting results? Are you actually delivering something, or just excuses? Can your efforts be seen to be effective or not?
You will have worked with ineffective managers. I am just thinking about one who was good at the art of “BS”. She never gave a straight answer, talking about “non-cashable” savings, or saying “I contacted the supplier but they wouldn’t budge”. If she was challenged she would get nasty and say things to the challenger like “you backed me into a corner just then, which I didn’t appreciate”. This colleague was very likeable and popular. She was sensitive to feelings and was generally a good team player. Unfortunately she had been promoted beyond her competency and was not able to do the job she had been placed in. Another manager comes to mind who, again, was a good talker, but absolutely unable to actually deliver anything. He often claimed that the report was on his computer, or was coming next week. In response to suggestions he invariably claimed it was already happening (without any evidence). I think he actually believed he was fully on top of the job and doing well, while all around found him nice but ineffective.
Now I mention both of these colleagues as they were both very pleasant, kind, easy to get along with people. They would probably do well in a popularity competition. But if a colleague struggles to take up a role they will often default to using top down power (command and control) to get things done.
In other words without the authority to get the work done they resorted to using power. As we work to achieve our organisation’s aim we need to use the authority that is vested in us, via our role. This is what doing our job, at heart, amounts to. We personally get the authority to do what is required to deliver our tasks. Authority is exercised as we seek to achieve the aim of the system, to do the role we have been appointed to. Managers who are comfortable with the authority that they have will not try to control others unduly, simply passing down the appropriate tasks and authority to those who work for them. They will manage the process to get the aim achieved. Exercising authority on behalf of the system, via the role, he or she gives others the opportunity and space to take up their own authority and participate in the organisation wide endeavour to meet the aims and objectives of the company.
Those who lack competence struggle to use the authority that goes with the job. As a result they resort to using their role power (this underlies all senior roles but is best used very sparingly) to either control others, or to avoid being controlled by them. It is not surprising that these people will find the rules (delegations, systems, regulations) hard to adhere to, and often find themselves wilfully subverting delegations or authorities. They may bully or charm others to get their way as their authority is undermined by their incompetence.
Something I read recently, by someone who had work in a wide variety of organisations, really resonated with me. He says:
“Each of these organizations has had the same ability to affect my happiness in a profound way. If, for example, I completed a project successfully and enjoyed the company of my fellow workers, then the whole of life seemed enlarged, happy and worthwhile. At other times, undemanding work, authoritarian bosses, and hostile rivalry seemed to reduce my life to a prison and in two instances I resigned.”
(Robert De Board, The Psychoanalysis of organizations, Routledge, 1978, Introduction)
Managers Forum NHG