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Still Taking the Job?

I conduct many management development training programs. Some focus on managing at the middle level and some are geared toward the first line manager or supervisor. They are usually implemented as a series, covering a variety of the skills and strategies that are essential for managing effectively.

During the first session, I often ask the participants why they became managers.  I get these answers:

  • I want to move forward in my career.
  • I want to make more money.
  • I want to contribute to the goals of the organization.
  • I want to share my knowledge.
  • I want to have a greater impact on decisions made.

I like these answers because they are honest. The majority of people I meet in my programs are focused on themselves. They are tuned in to everyone’s favorite radio station – WIIFM. (AKA What’s In It For Me). Most of us are tuned in to this frequency to some degree or other. Motivated by the carrot (what goodie do I get) or the stick (what negative consequence can I avoid) we work for a variety of reasons that often changes as our lives shift from stage to stage.

Where you work for the paycheck, the prestige, the visibility, the challenge, the flexibility, the security, the collegiality, the convenience, or some mixture of these factors – it usually is about what we get out of it.

So many people seem genuinely surprised when I suggest that the job of the manager is not about them at all. Managing people is most often defined as ‘getting work done through others.’ This really means that it’s about THEM. What motivates them. How to leverage their talent. How to attract, develop and train them.

While I am sympathetic about the stress that managers deal with, the truth is that my training program will not really address how well they are managed by their boss, how good the policies and procedures are in the organization, or how the folks in Human Resources could be much more helpful than they are.  Not only can I not do much about those things in a training program, it’s totally beside the point. Employees don’t care how unloved, under-appreciated, or undermined their bosses are. They simply want to be managed well.

Today, in a management program, I was asked by one of the participants “When does it tapered off – this them focus?”

“That’s a really good question.” I said. I tossed it to the group of 18 other participants and asked them what they thought. After some discussion they all agreed that it probably never did. The THEM focus is what the job of manager or supervisor is all about. It gets lost in the shuffle of career development, management goals and objectives, and being proactive about your career development.

Hiring, motivating, mentoring, training, teaching, developing, retaining, providing both improvement and reinforcement feedback, presenting, taking corrective action, firing, supporting – are all things managers do. It’s not in addition to the job, it IS the job.

If more people understood that, do you think they would still go for that promotion to manage other people?


This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 at 9:31 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.