What should managers be?
At some time or another, every child is asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’ve never heard one answer, “I’d like to be a manager.” I didn’t.
Yet I now believe heart and soul that it is a calling to be a great manager. Unfortunately, greatness is rarely achieved, and thus examples are rarely talked about. Children don’t hear inspiring stories of managers often enough to say they want to be one.
—from the Introduction to Managing with Aloha
If we do not change the role of the manager, we will not change much else
The Role of the Manager Reconstructed is so very basic and fundamental in my own head, that up to now I hadn’t realized I didn’t have one definitive article about it to refer you to. Then again, within our study of Kuleana is the perfect place for it, for the single reason I wrote Managing with Aloha was so that managers could own up completely to their Kuleana, and their personal responsibility for great — and only great management (in a word, Alaka‘i.)
I have very strong feelings about the Role of the Manager needing to shift from operational process in organizational construct, to the managing and loving of people if our workplaces are ever to improve. And not just improve for human well-being, but for the optimal business prosperity which includes profitability —for everyone. Managers are still overwhelmingly treated as technicians and process-marchers in most workplaces, and not as the coaches, mentors, and people-groomers they SHOULD be, and should be ALL THE TIME.
I have nothing against all the brilliant technicians, organizers and conductors in the world, for heaven knows we need them, and I have been known to dabble in their expertise too… However those are different jobs — not better, not worse, different — than the job managers should have. It is dramatically different from the definition of the Role of the Manager in a workplace managed and led with a foundation of Aloha in the organizational culture.
Aloha: The foundation of human spirit
Caring for that foundation is the Kuleana of the manager.
Managers need to work in a strong partnership with those brilliant technicians, process organizers and operational conductors in the world, however they have their own critically important job to do, and they cannot be expected to do both of them.
You hear it said all the time: “Our people are our biggest asset.”
The “people” snicker. For work is ACTUALLY done in a way that plays out as: “Our processes are our biggest assets, and we just keep people around to keep them running.”
Even managers who WANT to coach and mentor their people and feel they DO have a calling for it, are called in different directions, expected to do other things, torn as they answer to a boss of their own (who is also expected to do a process job instead of a people one).
The real message?
“Your people can handle things without you if you hired the right ones, and your other work (the process work of technicians and operators) is more important; so everyone should do it. Oh, and by the way, if your people screw up, that will be your fault.”
There is this very basic, and very basically WRONG assumption here, that the people you hire already know all the who/ what/ when/ where/ why/ and how to do everything for you and your business before the first day they even started.
Basically wrong assumption number two? Nothing changes, and nothing ever needs to.
And here’s the rub:
- People can fix broken processes.
- Processes cannot fix broken-in-spirit people.
- Break the spirit of your managers, and you fall even farther behind.
The simple, glaring fact is that the Role of the Manager has to change from how it now exists in the vast majority of workplaces as I write these words.
The Reconstructed, Rejuvenated, Newly Respected, and Never Underestimated Role of the Manager is one of the key concepts of the Managing with Aloha workplace philosophy, if not THE key philosophy: The values of Aloha (unconditional love) and Ho’ohana (worthwhile work) and the Role of the Manager form a triangle of optimism each manager must work within constantly. This triangle of optimism will fuel the energy managers need to make the difference they are expected to.
Right now, the expectation that managers can make a difference is largely a pipe dream. Wishing and hoping for it to happen “when I get caught up” is not a viable strategy. My experience proves that Managing with Aloha IS the viable strategy, and a crucial first step is reconstructing the Role of the Manager.
There are 4 building blocks in our Managing with Aloha Reconstruction:
- PEOPLE —Living with Aloha
- PLACE —Working with Aloha
- MISSION —Managing with Aloha
- VISION —Leading with Aloha
The MWA Role of the Manager is spelled out for each of these 4 building blocks this way:
MY MANA‘O (what I believe to be true) ~ ~ ~
1. People: Managers concentrate on strengths and make weaknesses irrelevant.
—Discover what strengths each of the people you manage possess.
—Place people where they are called on to employ those strengths and capitalize on them.
—Give people authority to completely own their responsibilities.
2. Place: Managers create great workplaces where people thrive.
—Focus on creating an environment where rewarding work happens.
—Continually work to remove obstacles, barriers, and excuses.
—Be the steward of a healthy organizational culture.
3. Mission: Managers get the work to make perfect sense.
—Connect the work to be done with the meaning why.
—Plan to succeed with a viable business model, so people always see realistic possibility.
—Encourage people to work on the enterprise with you, not just within it.
4. Vision: Managers expect and promote the exceptional.
—Never settle for mediocrity; champion excellence so people rise to the occasion.
—Lead, mentor and coach. Harness energy and drive action. Do with, not for.
—Foster sequential and consequential learning so people continue to grow.
For managers to really make these things happen, business owners have to remove managers from their Process Clean-Up Crew, and newly respect that these 4 building blocks represent a job all by themselves.
If things are falling apart, or are less than desirable, there is a good chance the work of a Great “I have a calling for this” Manager is not being done. In fact, more of “a good chance.” I’m sure of it without needing to take a single look into your organization.
So, the question is this: What are we going to do about it?
Will Kuleana inspire us to seize hold of our responsibility for leadership, even if it means we have to stage a revolution within the MWA movement to do so?
Gotta tell you folks, I love the thought.
“This is your mission, and should you choose to accept it…”
My definition of the manager’s role is connected to some strong, strong beliefs. True, it is my personal mana‘o (conviction) however I believe I share it with all those managers who feel they have the calling for managing people. Great managers believe that people are good, and they are worth every effort it takes to help them find worthwhile, meaningful, and personally fulfilling work.
Further, if you want to see innovative and creative breakthroughs happen in your organization, you need Alaka‘i Managers to champion the very people who will achieve those breakthroughs with you:
To be an Alaka‘i Manager, is to lead and manage as verbs connected to energy, recognizing human-propelled energy as our greatest resource.
The Alaka‘i Manager knows full well, that “People are not our greatest asset: People who Hō‘imi with the energy of their Ho‘ohana are.”
Alaka‘i Managers make genius possibility more exponential: Their art is in strengthening and growing other people.
March 2010 Update: Are you a Linchpin, a Genius, or an Alaka‘i Manager?
Great managers count their successes by counting the number of people they have helped thrive, not by the numbers on their financial statements, the processes they keep humming along, the ratings of their ad campaigns, or even the number of customers who keep coming back for the products and services they offer because of their people.
They count how successful they are by how many people they have made a difference for directly and consistently because of the work they do.
Remember that triangle of optimism I mentioned? To the Alaka‘i Manager (side 1), Ho‘ohana work (side 2) is the great Aloha (side 3) enabler.
How do you feel about this?
I hope to hear from you, for we Ho‘ohana together,