Saturday, December 13, 2008

What is a manager for?

Eventually, managers are needed for one thing - to effectively use resources to achieve goals though implementing changes. Sounds rather trivial, however every word in this statement is essential.

Resources meant here are varied - administrative, financial, human, etc., - you name them. The point is that in our world all resources are limited and thus, effectiveness plays a key role in success. A person using resources effectively achieves better results than one who does not.

Goals always exist - even if they are not explicitly expressed and not presented in specific numbers. We all want something, and our investors/sponsors are not an exception. When hiring a manager they expect him to achieve something they want - even if the manager has to guess their wish.

When we have resources and defined goals, are we thus managers? I guess not if we do not have to change something to achieve results. I strongly believe that when there no changes then no need in manager. Coordinator who is controlling the established status quo is enough. However, I’ve seen only a few people in my life who did not want to change anything...

It took me some time of working in managerial positions to realize the points above and to "feel" what a manager is expected to do. I intentionally use a reference to feelings here since logically everything is simple and clear. There are plenty of books and business schools available where everybody can learn similar things. However, knowledge and logical understanding is not enough to apply professional skills. You must try and adjust the knowledge to yourself.

So, eventually I came to this point and realized that being a manager is very simple! All you need to do is to build a team that is able to work effectively to achieve goals by implementing changes that team defines itself. Cool, huh?

Since I'm a rather lazy person, I started to work on the team doing my job immediately! That was the beginning of a long journey during which I distinguished three types of teams:

"Team of Star"
This is a team almost fully controlled by a manager. As long as the manager is there, knows and controls all details, the team is effective. However, such a team is only as effective as the manager is.

"Stars Team"
This is a team of advanced people where each person works independently. However, team work assumes interdependency. Therefore, advanced people capable and preferring independence often struggle with each other. This decreases overall team efficiency. To be the most effective, the team requires a very strong leader capable of breaking barriers between individuals and directs their potential to the team success. The team is efficient as long as the manager constantly and consistently prevents personal interests from dominating team objectives.

"Star Team"
This is a team utilizing its potential and other resources in the most efficient way, with minimal involvement of the manager. This is any manager’s dream - a team capable of implementing any vision and overcoming any challenges by itself. Direct manager's involvement is only necessary in critical situations and to adjust direction the team is moving on.

Therefore, a good manager should:
- Build appropriate vision through intellect and imagination;
- Build a team capable of implementing a vision in the most efficient way;
- Monitor team progress and adjust direction as situations change.

This is not a complete list of manager's capabilities. In future posts, I will discuss other abilities, such as working with people, clients, investors, and financial information. Ultimately, a manager is only a manager when he directs other people. Almost everything may be delegated to a team besides the team building itself.

In the end, people development is the most important skill for anyone who wants to be recognized as a good manager.

1 comment:

Neal said...

Great piece regarding the three types of teams. I think as managers, we are often frightened by the prospect of the team being able to function without us.

Ironically, it is when we have developed a team to that point that we have achieved our greatest success.