What Is a Manager?
There are many types and levels of managers, but generally, a manager is the link between upper management and employees. A manager is responsible for overseeing the work of others and for achieving company objectives. Managers have control over resources, schedules, and expenditures, among other things. As a manager rather than a staffperson, you have more power to exert changes within your organization and help direct its growth. By virtue of their position, managers wield a certain amount of power and influence. Just how they wield that power determines whether they are successful or inadequate managers.
Not all successful managers are alike. They differ in the ways they go about their work or the type of environment they prefer. Some like a fast pace and rapid changes; others like organized structure and set systems. Many thrive on challenges or creativity. One thing successful managers do seem to share, however, is that they get along with people. Your results on your skills, personality, and emotional intelligence tests in Chapters 3, 5, and 11 will help you figure out if you are a people person, but you probably already have a pretty good idea whether you are or not by the types of activities and work situations you enjoy.
While there are many types and styles, managers in every organization share some basic duties and qualities, such as the following.
Managers Plan, Organize, Prioritize, and Budget
People in managerial positions are called upon to plan projects and meetings, decide who does what when, know when ends have been achieved, and establish and stick to budgets. A good manager can organize the maelstrom of papers, e-mails, telephone calls, meetings, and directives that flood one's desk on any given day by keeping priorities straight. By setting clear goals for projects, people, the organization, and oneself, you can tell when you've achieved success.
Managers Analyze, Evaluate, Delegate, and Take Action
The ability to identify a problem, consider solutions, set realistic goals, come up with strategies for attaining them, and assign tasks and responsibilities to the right people is a hallmark of a good manager. The boss also needs to be able to evaluate the skills, knowledge, and abilities of staff; monitor project status and work progress; and do what's needed to achieve goals and meet deadlines.
Large projects can't be done by one person. Managers know what to delegate, how to delegate, and to whom to delegate in order to get the job done effectively. Being able to delegate well frees up a manager's time to do all those other things she does that earn the big salary. Because they've prioritized their work, managers can take action to produce results for the company and solve problems ranging from employee grievances to project snags. A manager who is holed up in an office bemoaning an unsympathetic superior or lack of support, or playing the victim, is unlikely to be able to spur his employees to new heights of achievement or recognize if conflicts are brewing in the office. Proactive managers can get to the root of a problem before it becomes a bigger issue. They take responsibility for their lives, their work, and the results of their actions, and they encourage their staff to do the same.
Managers Communicate Well
You can't fake this. One gripe frequently heard around workplaces is that staff members feel out of the loop about what's going on in the company, especially in times of upheaval or layoffs. A manager who keeps employees informed and answers their questions honestly will let them know how they fit into the big picture and keep them committed to the enterprise.
Nobody expects all managers to write like Shakespeare or hold forth like Winston Churchill, but a certain aptitude with words goes a long way toward achieving desired ends. If you can express yourself clearly, you reduce the chance for error when others interpret your words.
Managers are often called upon to run meetings with one person or dozens of people and perhaps present papers or reports to an audience of hundreds. For most people, death is less terrifying than speaking in public. Join an organization, sign up for a seminar, or take some training in the art of public speaking so you can remain calm, cool, and collected in front of an audience, whether of staff, your superiors, or a roomful of strangers. Managers who can't speak well in front of a group lose credibility.
Is there a career that requires no writing whatsoever? Probably not, and many require a great deal of it in the form of reports, staff or project evaluations, presentations, agendas, summaries, briefs, and memos, to name a few. Part of a manager's responsibility is to communicate the company and department's mission, responsibilities, policies, procedures, and job information and expectations to staff members, whether in person or in writing. Good, clear writing is like any other skill — you can learn how to do it with practice. There are myriad resources to help you, from books to workshops. Enlist an assistant or associate to help edit and proofread, especially for the important documents. Everyone needs a second set of eyes to catch those dangling participles and misplaced modifiers.
Perhaps the preceding are some of the skills you identified in yourself in Chapter 3. Not all people can be good managers — nor should they be managers. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche noted, “Whoever does not know how to hit the nail on the head should not be asked to hit it at all.”