Management isn’t cool (but I like it)
The uncool truth of managing teams
Leaders are cool, managers aren’t.
Lots of articles will tell you the differences; leaders inspire, they don’t need an official title because people just follow them, leaders are visionary, leaders are innovators. Whereas managers…manage.
Leaders are Steve Jobs, managers are David Brent.
Based on the patronising descriptions of managers around, you’d be forgiven for thinking they are unquestioning upholders of authority, sticklers for rules and lovers of admin. People explicitly comment that they don’t want to be managers. It is not cool. Yet perhaps we need to update our perceptions of management. Perhaps we need to look again at what it entails.
Management requires vulnerability
Far from the old management theories of control, modern managers need to build real connection with their teams. This means being open and honest about what you don’t know. When I started as a manager, I felt pressure to demonstrate my experience and have the answers. This stopped making sense when people brought ideas, new technology or perspectives I didn’t have. I thought it was important to keep up appearances and never admit to having a bad day. But if you expect your team to confide how they feel in you, it helps to show you too get ill or overwhelmed sometimes. After all, managers are people too.
Managers challenge and disrupt
Sure, there’s a job to do and goals to achieve. But as a manager, the happiness and identity of your team is very important. So you don’t just accept everything from on high without question. If poor decisions, lack of resources or conflicting priorities are holding their team back, managers voice concerns and propose solutions. They aren’t afraid to challenge and make bold recommendations. Sometimes they have to point out that companies will lose team members unless they take action. Often they are the ones advocating for better pay and conditions.
Managers have tough conversations
Some leaders avoid direct people management so they can focus on the ‘big picture’. But in doing so, they are missing out on one of the most insightful and hardest tasks for managers. We have tough conversations with people in our teams. From depression, grief and bereavement to joy, new pets and babies, anything can happen at anytime. People need space to share and process what they experience, as well as reassurance and support. It can take a lot of energy to hear it and the more people you manage, the more stuff is happening. A manager peer group is important to help bolster each other as we go through it all together.
So manager might not be the most coveted job title, but it does take being vulnerable, challenging the status quo and tough conversations into one varied job role. Which is, if not cool, then at least interesting.
Managers: people, leaders, and people leaders.