Whenever I talk with managers, I get the sense that their day consists of putting out fires, mediating problems with employees, sitting in endless meetings, and answering email. Oh yes, and most of the time they’re still involved in the very technical tasks they were promoted to management from.
I often see them with that “1,000 Yard Stare” and sense their mental and physical exhaustion. Sadly, in spite of that, most of them aren’t particularly clear on what their actual job in “management” really is. That lack of clear focus and purpose wears on them. It’s a whole lot of activity with no real sense of accomplishment.
What if that could be turned around?
One of my clients has a very elaborate labor-tracking system they use. When I met with them recently, one of the managers mentioned that for managers, there is an actually time code that represents what a manager is supposed to do. They refer to it as Management Oversight. It’s the only time I’ve actually seen a company designate time to “management.”
Identifying WHAT to call the time is a good start. What needs to get DONE in that time is important. I have three suggestions.
- Develop Your People. This is job #1. When you focus time on building rapport, assigning goals and tasks, giving feedback and coaching on those tasks, and engaging an employee in planning their career both inside and out of your organization, it’s a safe bet to say that work will get done! I know it sounds counter-intuitive when you’re used to running around like your ass is on fire, but take the time to develop your people and you’ll find that work will get done much more efficiently.
- Stabilize Systems and Processes. Most managers will feel comfortable with this task. It’s the closest thing to their previous technical job. It doesn’t mean working in those jobs though. A manager has to ensure processes are stable and efficient. Systems need to be aligned with corporate goals and those metrics and targets met. Finally, any flaws, impediments, and breakdowns in the systems need to be fixed. The manager has to identify those and assign staff to repair. Yes, this gets done WHILE developing people.
- Protect the House. Managers also need to ensure their department, people, products, and services are in compliance with all regulations. This requires them to be HR experts, lawyers, auditors, and inspectors (but of course they aren’t so they need to know where to get that expertise). This means taking and not sleeping through those HR briefings on FMLA, ADA, OSHA, and other acronym-laden areas. Legal experts have already determined that a manager should or should-have-known where there are violations. Better that you actually know and address these! Yes, this also gets done while developing people.
I know it sounds like a lot but really, if you get your people developed and trained, much of protecting the house will happen automatically. You’ll also have fewer systems and processes to stabilize because your people will know how to do things right.
Management Oversight is one of the most valuable gifts you give to your organization. Be sure to identify these as tangible tasks and let your superiors know exactly what your roles and goals are as a manager. Managing with a purpose will give you that specific, rewarding credibility that you seek!