Manager or doer?

All of us start our business lives as doers. We’re hired to complete a set of tasks which, when added together, form a job. When we’re advertising for a position, we usually write a job description and a job advert listing the tasks for which the person doing that job will be responsible. That’s the ‘doer’ end of the scale.

However, if a doer is promoted to take on the role of a team leader (for example), there are a number of things to be aware of –

  • The first is very common. You promote a doer to a managerial position because they are good at ‘doing’, but they aren’t successful in the new role. This scenario was set out in the classic management book, The Peter Principle. The effect on the business is that you lose a good doer and get a poor manager
  • When you’re making such a promotion, consider first the personality and characteristics of the doer. The right person for promotion may not be the best doer
  • The next point to consider is how you will support your newly promoted person. You don’t really expect them to know intuitively what to do – how to be a manager rather than a doer, do you? They’ll require clear objectives, guidance, coaching and possibly some management training
  • The last point is related to personality. When someone is promoted, they’re no longer ‘one of the boys and girls’, instead, now they’re the boss. Taking that step up can be difficult, not only for the newly promoted person, but also for those they supervise

The further you move up the ladder in business, the less time you’ll have for doing and the more time you must spend managing.

But what exactly is ‘managing’?

When I write a job description I start with the answer to the question, ‘What is the purpose of this role?’  A well-defined role will have clear objectives and criteria by which they can be measured.

A manager’s role is no different – it will have clear objectives and criteria by which they can be measured. The difference with the manager’s role lies in how those objectives are to be achieved.  The manager is responsible for the objectives but achieves them through the efforts of others.  Coordinating others and enabling them to carry out their roles successfully is a job – it’s called management.

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