Thursday, May 12, 2005

Managing at the Right Level

You may have to register to link to the article. I recently let a position where I found myself managing down the chain and getting myself involved in managing scenarios that should have been handled by my team. Jonathan Byrnes relates that this is a fairly common scene.

The problem is that promoted managers rarely get trained how to manage at higher levels. I would agree that the problem perpetuates itself. In my situation, I was so insanely micro-managed that I simply HAD to jump down one and two levels to ensure that everything was done according to the specifics of MY manager. Which is really just no way to go through life.

The author goes on to give some good definitions of the various levels of management (manager, director, and vp):

Managers oversee and operate functional areas within departments. They are responsible for efficient execution and process improvements and the generally operate in a short time frame.

Directors run departments. They are responsible for the development and efficiency of their staff. They are also responsible for restructuring their deparments for "quantum improvements" and working with the directors of other departments to jointly improve the company's performance. The time frame is usually medium-term.

Vice Presidents are responsible for the FUTURE. They should spend their time working with their counterparts to develop and oversee programs of renewing change. This involves gauging and understanding profitability patterns, market opportunities and company effectiveness, as well as evaluating, adapting and adopting best practices from other companies. VPs should NOT be focused on managing the company as it is TODAY, but rather focusing on creating a fundamentally new and better company.

There is a danger to managing too low. You run the risk of missing management-process problems. The solution is to drain the swamp so that the stumps appear. To drain the swamp, managers must refocus their attention to the correct level. Once this happens, lasting improvements should follow.

Great. How do you do this, you ask. Measure. Measure. Measure. First, have your managers list the components of their jobs and estimate the time they spend on each. THEN, have them keep time logs (which everyone hates and are a huge pain but they DO generate trending data...usable trending data) for about a week. This creates a snapshot and usually presents a very clear picture of how someone is spending their time. It works. I've used it.

Next, conduct an assessment. A compare and contrast. What portion of the job components are the managers actually performing? What can be assigned to subordinates? What is NOT getting done but should be?

Do jobs need to be redefined? Redesign the standard, bland job descriptions that no one is obviously paying any attention. When you redesign, make sure you create and allow for a balance between managing stasis and creating change and innovating.

Once you have done all this, make sure you TRAIN your new managers for their new roles. At the very least, make sure your new hires understand the critical change in focus. More importantly, have you changed your OWN perspective? As a manager moves up, she has to shift focus from managing the current company to creating the future company. And, as always, don't make this a one time thing where you bring in a consultant and then never implement. Or you do all the assessments, redesign jobs and then revert back to the status-quo. You have to perform periodic checkups to make sure you remain on track.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Leadership and Management Theory Defined

I went back and reviewed this article and my post. This isnt a great article. There are good elements but on the whole, the attempt tends to scatter once you get past the table comparing a leader to a manager. Consequently, this post is all over the place as I attempt to tie the fragmented ends together.

This article comes from one of my favorite stops on the Net, The CEO Refresher. And it just so happens that it is written by a Marine, LtCol Mark V. Eberhard. Continuing the Marine Corps trend here at Diligentia. The article breaks down definitions of managers and leaders, compares and contrasts them, talks about different leadership theories, power in leadership roles and the emergence of management theory. I decided to re-write this post to clear up this article a little bit. The transition from the compare and contrast into theory and history is awkward. On the whole, the first half of this article will serve as a great starting point or primer for anyone interested in understanding the difference between leadership and management.

Managers bring order and consistency in drawing up formal plans, forming structures and monitoring results; authority of position gains compliance.
Leaders establish direction by developing a vision and inspiring people to

There is a great line in this article that states that leadership is not a trait but a PROCESS where an individual influences a group of people towards a common goal. A process. I really like that. A process that occurs within the context of a group.

At this point, I would have suggested a Part II or at least a better transition into Leadership Theory and definitions of power. How is that power achieved? Is it earned or handed to a new leader? Does a group pick its leader or is she forced upon the group?

The article then attempts to break down Path-Goal Theory versus Fiedler's Contingency Theory. Path-Goal suggests that a leader's job is to help his team reach their goals by directing, guiding, and coaching them along the way. Show them the goal, tell them they can achieve it, and help them along the way. The problem with Path-Goal is that is often leads the team to become dependent on the leader.

Fiedler came along and noted that effective leadership depends on a match between the leader's style and the demands of the situation. Situations vary. Level of trust between leader and member of the team. Task structure is determined when requirements are clear and choices of action are limited, and results are measurable (I say this is path-goal). And Position power is the power of the leader to alter the team and reward/punish them. All three of these affect the situation. This theory posits that for every situation there is a perfect leader. Well...that's great but what do you do is there is a mismatch?

Trait Leadership is based on the great man theory...leaders are born, not made. You can drop Julius Caesar or Napolean along any timeline and they will still be Caesar or Napolean. All of this has basically led to behaviorist theories. The leader's ACTIONS are most important. It is what she does rather than her attributes. Good leaders have good interpersonal skills, are cooperative and inspire people to work for them through their behaviors.

The article then attempts to transition into what motivates leaders. It forgets about managers completely in the history of theory section. But there is some good stuff here. Maybe three different articles in a series on the history of leadership study. The article gives a pretty lengthy definition of power leadership. There are two types. The first is personalized power where the leader seeks power only to further their own interests. The second is a socialized power motive where the leader uses his power for the sake of others.

For these leaders, there are several motivations. These people are motivated by drive and achievement. The put forth high energy and persistence into achieving goals and they find joy in accomplishments. They have the desire to achieve success through their own efforts and take responsibility for their actions. They are willing to take moderate risks, receive 360 degree feedback, introduce innovative solutions, set goals and plan how those goals will be reached. They are also motivated by a strong work ethic. They are tenacious and therefore better at overcoming obstacles. These leaders have strong intellectual ability and knowledge of the business or team task. It is important for the leader to provide expertise in the field that will be a source of competitive advantage. A leader must be creative in finding original and imaginative solutions to complex problems. Insight into people and situations is yet another characteristic.

Which leads to a brief discussion on the importance of Emotional Intelligence. Too brief. You can sort of see what the author was trying to do. In a not so subtle way, he was trying to impose his beliefs on what makes a good leader. He should have written an article on EI and compared that to leaders subscribing to the socialized power motive. But he didnt. What makes a good leader? depends on the circumstances. A good trauma doctor is not the same as a good construction engineer leading a skyscraper project. A good marine lieutenant will excel in battle conditions and military ops but might not be a good school teacher. I get it. We need leaders that are motivated by the greater good.