What Do Managers Manage?

“The way you see them is the way you treat them and the way you treat them is the way they often become”
Zig Ziglar

“Management is nothing more than motivating people”
Lee  Iacocca

As Wisconsin dug out from the blizzard that hit the Midwest two weeks ago I was looking out the window of my condo thinking “It’s good to have people”.  “My people” were the group of folks we have hired to remove snow from our drives and sidewalks where I live about 20 minutes north of Milwaukee. 

As I watched them clear snow, one individual stood out, obviously in charge.  One could see him (or her – they were bundled up pretty well) moving from one group of workers to another providing guidance as to what needed to be done. The leader did not stay in one spot too long and while he or she reappeared regularly, wasn’t in one particular spot often.  On occasion this individual was wielding a shovel or driving a plow truck as well.

I began to think about what this team was accomplishing as a whole.  They eventually cleared the drives, street and sidewalks of over 12 inches of snow in less than four hours under the direction of one individual.  All the members of the team appeared to understand what needed to be done and they did not wait to be told what to do next.  It struck me that without proper management this project may not have gone as swiftly as it did.  But what form did that management take?

Lot’s of Work, Lots of People, One Manager

Here was a crew of 10 or more folks tasked with snow removal.  The act itself wasn’t rocket science but the execution in a short amount of time was the challenge.  Their efforts were coordinated to be most efficient.   Their coordinator was careful to see that everyone was doing their part and that the whole task was proceeding as it should.  Then it struck me.  Moving from person to person, group to group, the individual in charge was focusing on the people not the task.  He or she was not as concerned about moving the snow but more so about the people moving it.

Manage the People Not the Work

One person could never have moved all that snow in four hours (they’d still be outside my window!).  This manager understood that and focused their concern not on how much snow was being moved but on whether everyone was moving snow efficiently.  He or she made sure the members of the team worked steadily and supported them as they did their jobs by making sure they had the information and tools they needed. 

The supervisor also took into consideration everyone’s well-being as essential to how they could do their jobs.  When the crew first arrived, heavy machinery started the process and the individual workers had to wait as parking areas were cleared and they could begin on the walks.  It was below zero and windy that morning and there was one vehicle with its engine running and warm.  Inside there were warm beverages and a place to shelter when workers got cold. 

What Do Managers Manage?

Simply put…people.  That’s where the real work gets done.  Managers who focus on their people provide the lubricant that keeps a well-oiled machine running.  On any given day a department can still function if the workers show up and the manager doesn’t.  However, if the manager shows up and all the workers stay home, how much work will get done?

To have the greatest impact on the outcome of a group’s efforts a manager should focus their own efforts on where the most work gets done.  In most cases that’s the people themselves. 

Effective managers focus on:

  • What the team needs to accomplish (the goal)
  • The roles of everyone on the team
  • Making sure everyone understands their role
  • Making sure everyone has what they need to fulfill their role
  • The well-being of each team member

Whether you make things, sell things or provide a service it’s your people who make them, sell them or serve.  Regardless of the metrics you use to track results, the ability of your people to carry out their roles and achieve desired results requires your attention and support.  Focus on the people and the numbers will take care of themselves.

Here to serve,

John Duba

Next Month: Moving From Manager to Leader


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