Lead people, Manage Technology

I’ve often wondered about the title ‘manager.’ While it conveys a certain common meaning to most, is it the best term to use when looking at how to get the most out of your team? When you treat people as needing to be ‘managed’, that implies that if not managed, they’ll disintegrate into chaos, going off on their own, breaking the rules, making up new rules of their own, or generally, making a mess of things if you’re not there to manage them.

As a leader, it’s our job to see the big picture, define the goal, outline the strategy and identify the boundaries of what’s needed to move things forward. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to focus a certain amount of your energy on managing – in order to free up your bandwidth to focus on more strategic things, you have to first make sure that the business of the day is getting done. Just like Maslow’s model, you have to deal with the base level needs before you can self-actualize your way up the pyramid.

There are three activities that make up a typical day. The first one is ‘Managing’ – or as I like to refer to it, “Keeping the wrong things from happening.” When you’re managing, you’re doing the day-to-day things. Filling out forms, documenting actions, making sure that you’re covering the basics. Important work to be sure….but it’s only step one.

The next big category of activities is ‘Directing’ – Telling people what to do. Sometimes this gets lumped into the ‘managing’ bucket, but since it aligns with hierarchical job titles, I like to think of it as not only telling people what to do…but deciding what should be done that keeps you aligned with the overall strategic direction. THEN, making sure that your team is given clear direction on what needs to be done.

The top level activity is ‘Executing’ – Getting things done (through other people). At the entry levels of any organization, I joke that it’s where actual work gets done. It’s where tasks get executed, and progress is made. As you go higher in the organization, there’s less hands-on activity, and more influential and directive activities. Effective leaders magnify their effectiveness by getting things done through other people.

That being said, aren’t we all executives of one kind or another? To be effective, we have to get things done – frequently through other people…and in order to do that, we have to be able to have a vision of what we want, how to get it done, and get help to accomplish it.

Technology, on the other hand, must be managed. It’s not a living entity, it can’t be led, driven, motivated or discouraged. It’s just a tool, among many tools that you may have at your disposal. It is no better (or no worse) than the people behind it, that are using their own creativity to determine the best use for the technology. Since technology gives you leverage…..it DOES give you the capability to get into a lot more trouble, more quickly than you could on your own….but that’s why you set boundaries on how technology is to be used. As a technology professional, it’s up to us to determine what technology to use, how to use it, and put it into action to solve a problem. Lead people, manage technology.

How do you balance your time in managing vs. leading? What works for you?

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