It’s good for managers and leaders to periodically review how well they’re doing in the core responsibilities for their role. I’m not talking about trade-specific duties or tasks, but rather the central responsibilities required of every manager and every leader, no matter the industry.
A good framework for doing this is to first consider responsibilities of a front-line worker. Every front-line worker is given materials and taught a process to achieve an outcome. If the worker is trained well, he or she learns how to assess the outcome and make whatever adjustments are necessary in either the materials or the process so an optimal outcome can be achieved. This same process applies for people in management and leadership roles.
A manager’s materials
The “materials” given to front-line supervisors and mid-level managers are not what one would normally think of as materials. Managers must oversee the front-line workers themselves and the processes those front-line workers use. And, just like a front-line worker must become a student of the quality and capability of the materials he or she is given, managers must learn specific things about the people they manage.
What are each person’s strengths? What are their weaknesses? What are their preferred behavioral styles? What motivates each person? How does each person perceive and process information?
In addition to each person’s behavioral, cognitive and motivational preferences, a manager should know each person’s skill set. That is, what does each team member know about the tasks assigned them and to what level can each of them perform? If managers are unaware of these things, then those managers are not able to adequately operate in the rest of their core responsibilities.
The other major subset of what managers must oversee is the processes used by front-line workers. Supervisors and managers do not need to understand the intricacies of every front-line position, but they must have a solid grasp of the overarching process the team uses to achieve its objectives. They should have a good understanding of what each team is supposed to accomplish, and how the various positions interact with each other.
A manager’s process
If “front-line workers” and “processes” are the core materials assigned to a supervisor or manager, the next responsibility is to answer the question, “What do we do with that information?” The core responsibilities for managers are to ensure that all front-line workers are well-trained, and that processes are examined and improved upon. Just like front-line workers must assess and adjust based on what they observe in their finished products, supervisors and managers must assess their employees and adjust (improve) their knowledge and skill sets as needed. They must also do the same for the processes used by each team.
Too often I hear managers say that training is not their responsibility. I say, “au contraire!” It’s when managers learn to think like trainers that a workplace becomes the thriving hub of productivity it wants to be.
Shifting into a supervisory role after being a front-line worker for many years can be difficult. It’s a new level in the organization, and it requires a new level of thinking.
The leadership level
Similarly, moving into a senior management or leadership role can be equally difficult. It is yet another level in the organization and working at that level requires a totally different way of thinking.
Picture a 10,000-acre farm. At the front line are people working in the soil and operating the various machines. At the supervisory and management level, people are making sure that the front-line workers are trained appropriately and that all the different teams and departments are working together for optimal productivity. Supervisors and managers rarely do the physical labor, they train and coordinate those that do. It’s a different kind of work.
Responsibilities at the leadership level are yet a different kind of work altogether. Leaders on a farm must pay attention to economic forecasts and shifts in consumer demand. They must also pay attention to the capabilities of their vendors and suppliers (all external factors) as well as the internal capabilities of the various departments on the farm. Leaders must also be the central repository for the ideas people have about how to make the farm better.
Consider that list to be the materials for which a leader is responsible. The next question is, “What does the leader do with that information?”
The leader’s processes
Good leaders take the information listed above and use it to ensure their company is as effective and as profitable as it can be. That usually means communicating throughout the entire organization the various ideas that have been presented on how to make the farm better. From there, they collect and synthesize the feedback so the best decisions can be made on when, where and how to invest time, talent and/or resources.
The success of that process depends on the quality of listening that occurs. One common misunderstanding among leaders is that they need to have all the answers. Again, I say, “au contraire!” A leader does not need to have all the answers. A good leader needs to ask effective questions and weigh what is learned.
The other core responsibility that leaders often overlook is enabling the capability of their organization. Knowing when and where to do this does not happen by osmosis. Again, a leader must ask questions of his or her managers to learn where gaps exist in making the various processes more productive. All this requires transparent communication from everyone involved. And so, just as managers must understand the behavioral, cognitive and motivational preferences of their people on the frontline, leaders must know the same about their managers.
In other words, leaders must also be able to manage their managers.
When was the last time you took inventory of your management and/or leadership capabilities? If all we do is produce and never take time to conduct a tune-up, eventually our engines are not as effective and we run the risk of burnout. We’re already about halfway through 2021. Is it time for a tune-up?
Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. is a best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. For more than 30 years he’s been working with teams and individuals (1:1 coaching) to help them achieve excellence. He was also teaching Emotional Intelligence since before it was a thing. Reach him on his office phone at 208-375-7606 or through his website at www.MyWorkplaceExcellence.com.