"Effective managers accomplish much of their work in hundreds of little steps that eventually accomplish the work of management."
Newly minted leaders often feel that tectonic shift from individual contributor to manager. Admittedly, some organizations forget to develop these new leaders. Welcome to the “sink or swim” school of management, where the focus is to achieve what is expected instead of looking at the possibilities.
The journey from good to great is tough; and not all have the grit to continue. Others end up getting by or abandoning management altogether.
Linda A. Hill and Kent Lineback, authors of Being the Boss, provide a practical guide for managers just starting out and those who are willing to go the extra mile. The authors bring three imperatives to the art of management: Manage Yourself, Manage Your Network, and Manage your Team.
Wield authority wisely
"Use authority to do useful work, not to serve own ends"
After promotion, what managers usually take for granted is that they have gained the ability to influence people in the organization. Authority becomes a tool to help you and your people grow. Effective managers use their authority to achieve the goals of the group. They do not see authority as a mark of superiority above others. While you build your team from the inside, you also shape the environment outside by growing and building your own web of influence.
The true litmus test of a good manager is “not how good you are at bossing. But what little bossing you have to do.”
Self-knowledge is power
"Management begins with you—who you are as a person. It begins with you because what you think and feel, the beliefs and values that drive your actions, matter to the people you must influence."
Working on oneself is the groundwork for the first imperative. There are three ways to get people to follow: one that relies on formal authority, one that relies on friendship, and one that has foundation in trust. Of the three, the last is the gold standard.
But how is trust earned? Trust is built on two things: competence and character.
Competence may be expertise in the technical, operational, and political aspects of the job. Technical competence is about knowing what to do. Operational competence is about knowing how to apply it; and political competence is about knowing who does what and how to influence.
Character is the second element of trust. People must believe in the value of what you do. Having a good work ethic, believing in and following a set of values, will build on your character and your people’s trust in you as a manager.
Management is about getting things accomplished through others
"Management is responsibility for the performance of a group of people"
Managers must deal with several contradictions. Example, “to focus on the work, you must focus on the people doing the work”, and another favourite, “manage today and manage tomorrow”. Navigating through paradoxes is a skill that a manager must master in his or her journey.
As practice, the authors advise a simple 3-step action model to be able to integrate the three imperatives (self-management, network management, team management) into the daily grind: Prep- Do-Review.
In everything you do, think ahead. Prepare. Whether it’s presenting key facts, big data, explaining context at the beginning of a project, do your homework. Once the stage has been set do as planned. Just do it. There will be room for improvement; especially outcomes will have to be reviewed. This kind of learning model fosters continuous improvement.
In the end, it’s about striking a balance between management and leadership while building a high-performing “we” out of all the “I”s.
Management will bring about endless opportunities to expand oneself. Being the Boss is a management classic; most especially for inexperienced leaders. It is beautifully simple and spurs immediate action by posing questions every chapter. Check yourself against every imperative to have a clearer picture of the state of your leadership and management affairs. The book is a manual, a mentor of sorts, providing a place to begin after the chaos of promotion. It was designed so that readers may be able to “convert mundane everyday workday activities into management tools”.
Assuming a leadership position requires personal learning, emotional resilience, and personal courage. The transformation may take time. Beware the traps of perfectionism. It is not perfection that managers must strive for, but mastery.
Where are you in your journey?