business, leadership

Management Isn’t Broken, Just Wrong

It doesn't fix everything.
It doesn’t fix everything.

For A Few years, consultants and critics have said management is broken.

It’s not broken, but like using a butter knife as a screwdriver, it’s never been the right tool for the job. Or maybe like duct tape. It works for a lot of things, just not work

Management doesn’t work at work. You don’t like someone hovering over you and telling you how to do your job, especially when that person has probably never done your job. It’s based on decades-old theories of work that assume people won’t be productive without being threatened with unemployment. It also assumes people are hired who couldn’t possibly control themselves without direct supervision.

Manager? Babysitter?
Manager? Babysitter?

Maybe those were legitimate problems in 1918. Today, probably not. Well, hopefully not. But from my perspective as a consultant, over-reliance on levels of management tells me the company doesn’t know how to hire decent people. They may have some, through luck, but they certainly don’t know how to leverage talent because they’re too concerned with controlling and suffocating it.

Today, there’s a focus on engagement. It’s a word that fuels CEO daydreams of employee-fans, so in love with their jobs that they never take time off unless it’s to extol the virtues of the company to the public. In reality, it means people often choose careers and jobs that appeal to them, so they aren’t as likely to sabotage the production line with a mysterious stapler accident. Engagement doesn’t mean every day is sunshine and roses, but it means even on the “meh” days, you can think of worse places to work.

People CAN get stuff done on their own. As long as there's coffee.
People CAN get stuff done on their own. As long as there’s coffee.

The job is not terrible. You actually have the skills and knowledge and responsibility to get stuff done. You’ll show up, take care of it, and probably not start a war over the last doughnut. Management isn’t needed. Not that management in general is a bad idea. Time management, stress management – these are areas where a little control goes a long way, especially when it comes to setting limits and being realistic with goals or expectations.

Somebody needs to lead, monitor, and inspire employees. Somebody needs to relay communication from the big bosses to the regular people and back. Somebody needs to evaluate performance, decide who can handle more, coach those who are good toward greatness, and so on. Somebody needs to let employees be responsible for some creativity, improvement, and progress. It’s what a lot of managers often do, and it’s what they should be doing.

Sounds a lot like leadership, doesn’t it? Yeah, that’s no coincidence. Managing is what you do with your bills, your fitness routine, maybe household tasks. Leading is what we do with people. We know this, we understand this. We just need business to understand this.

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