Simple question, yet so many different answers are possible!
Let’s be sure that the answer we’d admit to ourselves doesn’t stop at “the team at company XYZ” or isn’t “I’m not really sure.”
I don’t intend to be rude; we managers can get caught up in a lot of fire-dousing as opposed to significant work of our own. Are you catching yourself, and refocusing on your own Ho‘ohana whenever that happens?
Let’s look at this from two perspectives, first to answer the “simple question” and second, from the standpoint of managing as a verb (a hot-button theme with me for any who might be newly joining us).
1. What are you managing?
Hopefully, your first reaction is, “Don’t you mean ‘who’ am I managing?”
Alaka‘i Managers (those who manage with Aloha) focus on people over the process. Is the process important? Sure it is, however you-as-manager aren’t the one actually engaging with the process, or at least not as much as your people are. You want to work with them, not for them, and you want to be their coach and champion — so is that the process you are managing?
Use the 5 Whys to dig deeper, and get to your answer. For example:
What are you managing, and why?
— I’m managing the process by which we ___________.
Why that particular process?
— Because it’s the one which is currently our most costly and time-consuming (a possible, fairly common answer, but certainly not the only one).
Why is it costly, and how can you coach your people in improving it?
Why is it time-consuming, and how can you coach your people to be more efficient? (And by the way” how would you better utilize the time you’d free up?)
I stopped at a third why, but you get the idea. According to Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet, who created a blog inspired by five why questioning:
“Five Whys is the Japanese philosophy of repeatedly asking why to find not only the direct sources of your problems, but also the root of those sources. It’s about thinking long-term and looking both ahead and behind, not just in the present.”
2. What are you managing, if managing is a verb?
Verbs rock and roll: They keep stuff moving. As a verb like no other, managing keeps work moving in the best possible way. So is that what you’re doing?
Here’s an excerpt from Business Thinking with Aloha:
“Work rocks!” because verbs are doing the rockin’ and rollin’. Verbs get work done because they grab our attention, and pack action into intention. They can’t sit still, and they take us with them as they make things happen. Nouns can be pretty attractive, I’ll grant you that, but they just sit there. Verbs add dynamic movement and vitality. They add verve and vigor and they zoom. When stuff starts moving you better be paying attention, and when Ho‘ohana intention enters the picture you’d best hold on.
Now as great as verbs are already sounding here, there are certain verbs which are a cut above the rest, and two in particular which are absolutely extraordinary. Together they form a partnership which is very focused on working with human energy as its engine. Those two verbs are managing and leading.
To be a manager like no other, an Alaka‘i Manager Rock Star, “What am I managing?” is probably a question you want to revisit often.
— “What am I managing TODAY?” is a great question to sit with as you have your morning coffee or make your early commute: Turn your car radio off and talk to yourself (seriously.) Then ask yourself those 5 Whys again, from the standpoint of Why the first answer you came up with?, for there’s likely some reason your first answer is front of mind for you; get to the gist of it. Challenge Your Most Brilliant Self: Burn Your Boats.
— “What am I managing IN THE NEXT HOUR?” is a great question to grab your focus back when you’ve been super-helpful to everyone else, but realize you need to stop and take stock of your day before it gets away from you completely. Ask the question midday or right after lunch: Big bummer when we do this at the end of the day and start scrambling, or worse, we don’t get to it at all and slink home for the day feeling we didn’t really get much accomplished.
— “What CAN I be managing in the coming WEEK?” is a great question to sit with as you do your Weekly Review, for it will help you be proactive and not reactive: Learn a 5-Step Weekly Review, and Make it your Habit. When you have a burning desire to get something done, and you have planned for it and scheduled it, it is SO much easier to just say “No.” to those little fires that come up. You delegate better, using all your resources and you curb any impulse you have to micromanage:
So let’s try this again: What are you managing?
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1. One more link which may help you with this:
“we managers can get caught up in a lot of fire-dousing as opposed to significant work of our own.”
Stay out of that trap of acceptable versus accomplished:
Feeling Good Isn’t the Same as Feeling Strong
2. Are you currently within a 9 Key Study? Learning Managing with Aloha: 9 Key Concepts. I am adding this posting to our Key 4 category, the Role of the Manager Reconstructed: What other connections fall within your personal value alignment?
In today’s workplaces, managers must own workplace engagement. The “reconstruction” we require in Managing with Aloha is so this expectation is reasonable, and so it is valued as critically important: Managers can then have the desire and ‘personal bandwidth’ for assuming a newly reinvented role, one which delivers better results both personally and professionally.
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My mahalo to Fred H. Schlegel for inspiring this post today. These thoughts came to me after I had read one of his recent Frog Blog posts, What are you selling? and found that the managing question naturally popped into my head: It’s a great post ~ do take a look. Thanks Fred!