81.4 F
Cruz Bay
Saturday, August 13, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesSource Manager's Journal: Thinking Like a Manager

Source Manager's Journal: Thinking Like a Manager

June 12, 2006 — How does a successful manager think? There are all kinds of courses for developing high-level management skills. The shelves of libraries and bookstores are full of volumes on the newest techniques, tools and concepts for leading and managing. But before skills, tools and concepts, there has to be a mental model, a way of seeing and thinking about the world and the organization, a way of thinking that defines successful management.
Whether it is a business, a government agency or a non-profit organization, the keys to thinking like a manager are the same. The concept of the "manager" is a slippery and ambiguous one, but in all definitions, the role of the manager is to achieve results. The vehicle for achieving these results is the organization, large or small.
In achieving results within the organization, what is most important is the manager's function rather than his or her status. I once worked with an organization in which the chief operating officer could only visualize her job in hierarchical terms. Her view of the world was, "I have my title. Why can't 'they' just do what they are supposed to do?" To her, the important result was that her staff honored her position at the top of the organization chart. She didn't focus on the results that the organization needed to achieve. In the end, she lost her job, and even worse, leaving the organization not understanding why she had failed.
To achieve results as a manager, there are four modes of thought that have proven to be particularly important. There are skills associated with them, but, in general, they are ways of thinking that frame all of the successful manager's actions and decisions. In a basic sense, the way of thinking is the skill.
Think Strategically: Everyday actions and decisions should be made in a context. This is true at any level of the organization. The manager must understand the mission, vision and goals of the entity and make decisions that fit within this framework. Vision, in this sense, is not a soft and fuzzy concept; it is what we want this business or organization to look like in some defined period of time. Having a vision gives us something to aim for on a day-to-day basis. It also provides the glue that holds people together. An organization in which all of the key people are moving in the same direction and speaking with a single voice cannot fail–in any market or environment, against any competition.
Think Linear: Linear thinking is the little brother or sister of strategic thinking. It is the mental mapping out of the process by which we are going to get from A, where we are now, to B, the result that we are seeking. What are the steps or actions? What resources will we need? Who will do what? How will we communicate? What problems can we anticipate?
Think politically: There is good political thought and bad political thought. What is commonly known as office politics, the kind of jockeying, rumor-mongering and distortion that we are all familiar with, is obviously the bad kind. Politics at its best is the thought process through which we ask: Whose support do I need to get this done? What will they be looking for? What am I willing to give? What is their style and how do I adapt to it to produce the best outcome? How do I motivate and energize staff for this effort? Again, at the end of this thought process is the desired result.
Thinking politically also means understanding that good management is an omni-directional process. The effective person manages well up, down and sideways. Once again, omni-directionality requires a mental model that focuses on results and on the organization. I recently worked on a project in which the manager of a large unit thought that managing up required being a transmission line for the views of top management to her department. In the end, she lost the loyalty of the middle managers and staff because they felt ¡V correctly ¡V that she was not advocating for the legitimate needs of the unit. She also lost the confidence of top management because there were morale problems in her department, and bad news was coming to them as a surprise. Not a good combination.
Think supportively: For most people, this is the most important and most difficult part of managing. It is about people, the most valuable and most annoying parts of any organization. People are the reason that all organizations are dysfunctional in some way. They are why managers often say, "I'll just do it myself." Managing people can also be the most rewarding part of being a manager, and the starting point is to think supportively. Fundamental questions include: How can I help make this person better than they are, and often better than they think they are? What do they need? What are their strengths that I can build on, and what are the weaknesses that I have to compensate for?
There are specific keys to thinking supportively. Daniel Goleman, in his work on what he calls emotional intelligence, points out that managers fail primarily for three reasons: (1) failure to inspire; (2) failure to motivate; and (3) lack of respect for others. A number of years ago, I was completing an organizational assessment of a hospital, an assessment that revealed a range of problems in most of the support services. Just as we were finishing, a new administrator, Mark, took over. He asked me what I thought he should do first. Much to his surprise, my response was neither strategic nor conceptual. I told him to get to know all of the housekeepers by name. He did it, and within two months a formerly tired, dirty facility was sparkling, including shiny brass fixtures that had not been touched in 30 years. Mark understood the power of respect and focused on motivating people through the simple but difficult and underestimated tool of active listening. I will have more on Goleman and his methods in a future column.
To summarize: Thinking like a manager equals thinking strategically, in a linear fashion, politically and supportively. In the end, they fit together as a package.
Editor's note: Dr. Frank Schneiger is the president of Human Services Management Institute, Inc., a 25-year-old management consulting firm that focuses on organizational change. Much of his current work is in the area of problems of execution and implementing rapid changes as responses to operational problems.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.


Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more