The New Role of the Manager

For most of the last decade, people in organizations tried, with varying degrees of success, to redefine “management.” The popular approaches were re-engineering, downsizing, right-sizing, etc. We even tried self-directed or self-managed work teams, “flat” organizational structures, etc. What we didn’t do was help those who were in management positions to redefine their roles. This, I believe, is the most glaring organization or staff development failure of the period.

As these changes were occurring, many managers were asking themselves the question, “If I don’t manage my people anymore, what is my job…what value do I contribute?” After all, “management work” has been traditionally perceived as a process of directing and controlling the efforts of people and watching them to make sure they do the right things and do them in the right way.

In the new world, the manager’s primary role is inspiring, enabling, coaching, supporting and managing relationships with his/her staff.

Add to that the fact that he/she is also expected to manage the non-human resources like finances, facilities and equipment, information, and the impact of new technology, market forces, government regulations, etc. It’s clear that these roles require different behaviors if the manager has any real chance of success in this “new world order.”

Once we settle on a new functional role for managers…that is, what they’re expected to do…we need to define the behavioral role…or how they’re expected to do it. It is not a big stretch to see that the behaviors required to be successful in the emerging management role are likely to be quite different from those needed to be successful in the more traditional role. My consulting experience tells me that when comparing the behavioral expectations for managers with their preferred behaviors, there are many who do not have the “heart” for this new role. They never signed on to do this “new-wave stuff.”

It will take the help of skilled leadership and/or management development practitioners to help organizations overcome this dilemma. To be successful, the result must be a comprehensive description of the managers’ role so that they can identify and acquire the support they will need to meet the challenges they will most surely face on the road to successful performance.

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