I know a young man who was recently promoted to the position of "Project Manager." This was his first management position and he was naturally a little nervous going into it. Knowing I frequently write on the subject, he asked for my advice as to what to expect. I began by saying management is not for everyone as it represents a leadership position where you become responsible for your subordinates. Some thrive in such a capacity, others prefer being led. I had a friend who was a master machinist and happened to be promoted to supervisor where he would be responsible for five people under him. This distressed him greatly as he worried about their performance. So much so, he developed ulcers and became quite ill. He begged his boss to go back to being a machinist, whereby he quickly regained his health.
Just because you've been given the title "Manager" doesn't mean you've suddenly been imbued with certain knowledge. You have to work at it. For example, in the Information Technology industry, it is common to see a successful programmer elevated to analyst, then to project manager, then to I.T. manager. Such a person may have been a great programmer, but that is no qualification for becoming a manager. Not surprising, the Peter Principle is applied whereby the person is elevated to a position above his level of competency and the company suffers for it. In most cases, such I.T. managers have a rather narrow perspective as they tend to think less as managers and more as programmers.
Whenever thrust into the position, a person must develop his/her own unique style of management. Quite often we will try to emulate others we respect, we may also read books and attend seminars to learn management techniques, and solicit advice from our confidants. However, we must realize what works for one person may not for another, and because of this, we have to tailor our strengths and weaknesses to the situation at hand. We will inevitably experiment with different suggestions until we find a comfortable style of management.
There are ultimately three variables dictating our style of management:
1. Our assigned duties and responsibilities which defines the scope of our management authority, and as such, our mission as manager.
2. Available resources, both human and machine. The skills and proficiencies of our workers and equipment will play a significant role in the timely completion of work products. For humans we consider experience, performance, and skill set, which includes interpersonal relations (defining our socialization skills). For equipment, we primarily consider its limitations. As my old football coach was fond of saying, "A team is as strong as its weakest player." If we have weak workers, we will need to improve their skills. If we have limited technology, we may need to consider upgrades. Of course, this depends on the availability of another type of resource, financial.
3. The time allotted to demonstrate you are achieving your goal. For a single project, you will likely need to demonstrate the project is proceeding on time and within budget. For departmental management you will need to demonstrate it is under control and improving productivity. It is very important you understand the timing variable as it will greatly influence your style.
These three variables define the hand we are dealt; how we play the hand is then up to us. Some will become drunk with power and try to micromanage everything under the persona of Attila the Hun. Some will try to make use of carrot-and-stick techniques to encourage workers to perform better, and still others will allow workers to walk all over them.
As for me, I always had a strong sense of organization and communications. Standardized and reusable methodologies for conducting business are invaluable in terms of defining Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How, all of which improves communications and clearly delineates how work products are to be produced. Unlike micromanagement, I prefer managing from the bottom-up, whereby assignments are clearly defined and employees are then empowered to see the task through to completion themselves. Other than this, I monitor the operation and run interference to overcome obstacles and obstructions. In other words, I believe in spending less time supervising, and more time managing.
The point is, this is a style that works for me. It may or may not work for you. As to my young friend becoming a Project Manager, I admonished him that, until such time as he discovers his own style of management, I recommended he remain flexible, to adapt and adjust accordingly, study others (what works and what doesn't), and learn more than teach. After all, stye comes with experience. As such, I advised him to learn everything he can about his niche of the business, be fair and honest, and lead by example. Never ask someone to do something you are not prepared to do yourself.
We must never forget human behavior rests at the heart of the science of management. It is not about technology, it is not about numbers, it is about people, which is why we call it "man"agement. Perhaps the best way to define it is "Management is getting people to do what you want, when you want to do it." And it all begins with your style of management.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.