Without management design, the new manager relies on base instincts

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In my previous article, I discussed how the moment an employee becomes a manager, her identity – in so many ways – is entirely subverted, and this loss has both an immediate and long-term impact on how the manager performs as a manager.  Does the manager keep trying to develop expertise and perform the tasks in the field she is managing?  That doesn’t make sense, as the manager isn’t actually doing the task.  Does the manager rate herself using the same metrics and peer groups as before?  No, that’s difficult because there is a team element and because team output is difficult to compare.  Does the manager still identify herself with the trade she’s managing?  No, because she isn’t doing that trade any more.

But perhaps the biggest sense of loss when someone becomes a manager is simply not knowing what to do.

Before becoming a manager, there was a schedule, inputs, outputs, a work stream, and some sort of set of measurements that determined quality and quantity.  It was very likely that these things were defined by someone else long before her arrival, and in the case of trades, these techniques and expertise have been built up and modified over decades.

Now, when it comes to management, is there any such regiment that organizations provide?   Sure there might be a lot of tasks that a manager is supposed to do – approve time cards, monitor attendance, host a team meeting, answer questions over email.  These things come to mind. But after that – where does a manager start?

OK, so maybe the manager starts a new series of things – sets up one-on-one meetings, sets up meetings with other managers, sets up meetings with the new manager.

Now things start getting a little more abstract – now what?  Does the manager start looking at work output of the team?  Does the manager try to gather or look at metrics of team output?  Are these things even available?

When does the manager actually start managing?  Is it the first moment of providing performance feedback?  Is it the moment the manager leads a team meeting?  Is it the moment the manager creates a team vision or strategy (and does it have to come directly from the manager)?  Is it the moment the manager sets expectations for how the team performs?

How about when a manager starts to resolve conflicts, make decisions and hires new employees?  Is the manager now up to speed?

Element #4: Work quality and quantity can no longer be improved using the techniques learned by meeting with and learning from others who do comparable work

In this, there are lots of areas where a manager begins managing, but the tasks surrounding management are typically abstract, are at best time-delayed when it comes to generating increased productivity in employees, and it is never clear if any one action is helping or hurting.

On top of this, there is usually a limited management infrastructure that provides guidance along the way, forcing managers to create their own version of what it means to manage.  In this process, there is generally limited or incorrect feedback provided on how to manage a team.

So once a manager does this process of discovery long enough, the management techniques that were developed by the manager by herself are de-facto the reigning management techniques, and, with scant feedback as to whether they are the right or wrong techniques, whatever the manager does is further and further ingrained as the correct techniques.

Now, this is great when the techniques adopted by the new manager happen to be good techniques.  This does occur.  But it more frequently occurs that techniques adopted are the wrong ones.

Instead of setting a team strategy, getting to know the partner teams or solidifying metrics, imagine a boss who chooses instead to yell at his employees to work harder.  To just get things done.  Or starts complaining about one of the employees and pits employees against one another.  Or ignores the team altogether and manages up exclusively?

If you are looking for an inventory of bad management behaviors and archetypes, look no further than http://www.badbossology.com/.  This provides a great inventory of bad bosses, that, when looking at them, you can see that the bad boss techniques are largely the result of a manager who has lost his former identity and has had to create a new one based on limited information, infrastructure, guidance, and feedback.

In fact, when you look at the kinds of bad boss types, you can see that they are essentially the “ids” of people whose old identities have been stripped away except for the core, and that core isn’t always pretty.  The classic “bad boss” is essentially operating on pure instinct of fear, and this is rarely a good idea in an organized work environment.

To provide structure and feedback to managers, and as a minimum component of Management Design, Business Performance Consulting (the business of the author of this blog, Walter Oelwein), uses a checklist of actions that managers are expected to perform, and as an added service provides structure and feedback for guiding the managers to those behaviors.

Is something that your managers could benefit from?  Or are you comfortable that managers rely on their inner core instincts to determine what they do as the boss?

Related articles:



The new manager is an amateur at doing managerial tasks


Giving performance feedback is breaks the illusion of greatness of a manager


Why managers don’t give performance feedback – it hurts the ego

Becoming a manager is a subversion of self-identity

Management Design:  The “designs” we have now: Send them to training (part 1)

Management Design: The “designs” we have now: Send them to training (part 2)

Management Design: The designs we have now – Promote the one who asks for it

Management Design: The “designs” we have now: Make the loudest person the manager

Management Design: The “designs” we have now: Recruit someone from a successful comparable organization

Management Design: The “designs” we have now: You can manage only if you’re from here

Management Design: The “designs” we have now: Hire the premier technical expert

Management Design: The “designs” we have now: Promote the top performer

Management Design: The “designs” we have now: You’ve managed a team before? We need you!

Management Design: The “designs” we have now: MBA graduates and Consultants

Tenets of Management Design: Managing is a functional skill

Teams should have a team strategy document. Here’s an example.

Management Design: How managers receive performance feedback compared to other jobs

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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .


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